Luckily, there's a lot to be enjoyed in this film besides Asia Sweet Asia. Les Morsures de l'aube (released with the English Title of Love Bites, though the title more closely translates to "The Bites of Dawn") is a pretty fun and challenging thriller, exploring the underworld of the French Nightlife, and what might lie beneath the surface of the that which lies under the surface... of... that which... lies under the surface. The always excellent Guillaume Canet stars as Antoine, the ultimate slacker mooch. He cons his way into night clubs, commonly using fake associations with the known names around the bar scene. He's got no permanent address (save the health-club locker room he showers and sleeps at, but doesn't pay for), no car and no real relationship with his ex-wife and daughter. Naturally he's managed to make more than his fair share of enemies out of bouncers, bartenders and club owners all over the place.
It's this living that leads him to one of the richest and swankiest soirees in the history of night-partying. Antoine gains access to the party by dropping the name of the local King of the Night Time World, a socialite no one seems to have met named Jordan. While dropping the name gets Antoine in, it also grabs the attention of the party thrower Abraham von Bulow (Jean-Marie Winling), who is eager to find Jordan himself. The problem is that nobody seems to have ever met Jordan... and that includes Antoine himself.
Nevertheless he is soon put on Jordan's trail, with the promise of a One Million Franc payoff when Jordan is delivered. Soon Antoine finds himself in increasingly tense situations... the kind you never see in a Mentos commercial. Keeping the same hours as Jordan is purported to, our boy investigates every night spot, from the average French bar to the richest possible nightclubs to the unknown pop-up Rave parties. And he'll lie and cheat to get where he needs to be (though with von Bulow's bankroll, he doesn't need to "steal"). It's easy to like our leading man here, because, while he's affable enough, he's not your typical film noir detective. This guy is a clubber, thrown into a film-noir situation. His bluffs are called, he finds himself beaten, kidnapped, attacked by dogs, attacked by men with dog-faces, and put through the proverbial ringer at every turn. By the time he's done he looks a lot more like Principal Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off than Doctor Shepherd from Grey's Anatomy.
Two things keep our "hero" going through all this: 1) the promise of a million francs and 2) his interaction with Jordan's sister Violaine (Asia Argento) whose "Love Bites" could turn Liberace into a heterosexual! From their first meeting he's entranced, and who wouldn't be. There's even a greatly appreciated bottomless scene for sweet Asia, whose rear end looks stronger than the Second Death Star. When it comes to Asia Argento, even a peek is an eye-full, but I felt worse than Antoine's dog-bitten foot when she refused to take off her top. Violaine offers up some bullshit excuse for keeping her bra on for her sex scene. Basically her reasoning is that her breasts are too large and jiggly. Oh, great, great excuse, THANKS! What's next? Oh, this amusement park ride is just TOO much fun, you can't possibly ride it! Oh, no, this apple pie is far, far too delicious, no slice for you! This Da Vinci is way too much of a masterpiece, therefore it shouldn't be on display. Hey, this book has the greatest writing since cuneiform first hit the papyrus page, therefore it must be locked away! Note to the four producers of this movie... I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth here, but come ON... pay her for the scene! Have you SEEN Scarlet Diva? She's not shy!
The question of who, or what, this Jordan really is never leaves the lips of the audience, or the cast as Antoine and his sub-contracted buddy Étienne (Gérard Lanvin) traces him (and, as she vanishes much more often than her Vintage bra does, Violaine as well) through this crazy world night after night. It's not a spoiler to tell you what he THINKS he is... that being one of two surviving Vampires in all the world. The other, naturally, being his sister Violaine! But how does this fit with reality, is Violaine really a Vampire, or just a hot goth chick with a penchant for rough oral sex? Does it matter? What is Jordan's agenda, and how close is he to his sister Violaine? What is Jordan and Violaine's connection, if any, to Abraham von Bulow? What is Abraham von Bulow's connection, if any, to Sonny von Bulow? Is Klaus innocent? Klaus?
The flaws in this film, while present, aren't even as thick as Charles Kuralt's hair. I do want to warn you that if you're looking for a Vampire Horror Movie, look elsewhere. This is an erotic thriller that lends itself much more to the "Mystery" than to the "Horror" film. That said, it's a bit of a stretch that someone as loaded as ol' Abe would hire the nobody that Antoine is for such an important assignment, just because he keeps the same hours as Jordan. Haven't French Private Eyes ever heard of "No-Doz"? Much of the mythology seems to be kept intentionally obscured to keep the audience guessing. However, much of this can be ignored because of the good acting by Canet and Argento. Some of these dots simply aren't connected by screenwriter Laurent Chalumeau and Antoine de Caunes, seemingly less out of a structure of mystery than out of the difficulty one faces in juggling so very many bouncing plot-points. While the film is still overall very good, and glorious in its passion for the gritty decadence of the modern vampire tale, this still makes one want to fill in some of the blanks by reading the original novel by Tonino Benacquista that de Cuanes and Chalumeau based this on. When I wasn't distracted by some of the strange typographical errors in the subtitles (there's a big difference between "Your" and "You're", folks), I kept wondering if Antoine would get out of one of his many impossible scenarios, then pop a Mentos, turn to the camera, smile and thrust out an upturned thumb!
Cheers to the mysteries that leave themselves intelligently open-ended enough to keep the audience feeling like their a part of the problem-solving. Cheers to the French tradition of genre humping. Cheers to Love Bites, the hot French "Vampire"-oriented mystery-thriller, which fully deserves Four Stars out of Five. It's an interesting and different take on the modern vampire tale, short on blood, long on intrigue. And it proves that there are some situations that even a fresh and full of life pack of Mentos can't solve. Klaus?
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