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[Critique] Ultraviolette and The Blood-spitters Gang - Review (Lesflicks)

lundi 28 mars 2022, par La cavale

Robin Hunzinger’s strikingly poetic film reveals a long-hidden family secret – the incredible story of his grandmother’s rebellious lover Marcelle
5 star review

a scattered memory… each shot feels like a recollection just out of reach
Robin Hunzinger’s meditative documentary on love and illness tracks the relationship between his grandmother, Emma, and a rebellious young woman called Marcelle. The film is compiled of fragments of the letters they sent to each other, photos dug up from archives, sketches of faces long forgotten and footage that ranges from dreamy to medicinally cold. Through narration and montage the story of Marcelle’s life is told. The film feels like a scattered memory, with images overlapping and merging with one another, each shot feels like a recollection just out of reach. It marvels in the women it presents, giving a refreshing view into a past we are often deprived off. A past of women who loved each other, who ran as fast as they could through life, and who died too young to tell their stories.

The punky and fantastical title well represents the Marcelle we get to know, who forms The Blood-spitters, a group designed for seduction, debauchery, and fun, when she is admitted to a sanitorium after contracting tuberculosis. ‘Ultraviolette’ refers to a nickname she was given at the sanitorium. She, much like her namesake, remains half invisible, we see only a few photos of her, and yet her presence echoes throughout the film at the highest frequency, dazzling all those in her path. We are introduced to each gang-member by Marcelle herself, as she described them to Emma in her letters. The emphasis the film puts on the way women view other women is stunningly impactful. Long, lingering shots on grainy photos invite the audience to look at each new woman shown to us, not to just gaze at them, but to really see them, as Marcelle describes their personalities, strong arms, and intimate moments.

The cinematography and use of montage is incredible at capturing the fever and nature of their disease, with scenes of someone moving at intense speeds down long hallways, desperately searching for an escape, paired with dizzyingly fast cuts between shots of pretty girls, dancing and playing and running. This is then contrasted with very still moments of cold and sanitised operations, doctor’s inserting needles into lungs and lone medical equipment disappearing into darkness. As an audience member, I felt forced to confront their illness, their mortality, and simultaneously made to understand the frantic, desperate way they lived, grasping at every opportunity to dance and love and kiss.

Seeing Lesbian history represented in media always feels incredibly affirming and special but this film, in it’s deeply personal and intimate story and hypnotising cinematography, is something else. It feels like a delicate snippet from a time long ago, one to frame and treasure forever.