Ian Jane delves deep into Raphael Neal’s FEVER!

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The Film:

In May of 1924, two affluent students from the University of Chicago kidnapped a 14-year-old boy and murdered him in order to demonstrate their intellectual superiority. The murderers, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, were convinced that the philosophical implications of their crime would not only justify their actions but exonerate them if they were caught. The Leopold and Loeb case captured the imagination of the public at the time (headlines at the time touted the event as the “Crime of the Century”) and it would go on to influence a number of high profile films over the years, among the most celebrated being Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope and Richard Fleischer’s Compulsion.

Raphael Neal’s French language thriller Fever, which is an adaptation of Leslie Kaplan’s novel of the same name, is the latest attempt to deal with this notorious case. It’s not difficult to figure out why so many writers over the years have been attracted to this material. The philosophical and moral stakes involved in the Leopold and Loeb offer the storyteller a clear avenue at probing the dark side of human nature. In a manner that can only be characterized as darkly prescient, Leopold was fascinated with the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche; he was compelled by Nietzsche’s concept of the “superman,” and his misreading of the concept would find its horrific echo in Hitler’s Third Reich.

Damien (Martin Loizillon) and Pierre (Pierre Moure) are two high school seniors who are enrolled in a philosophy class. In an early scene, their teacher praises Damien for provocatively proposing the idea of a motiveless murder as a thought experiment to interrogate some of the ideas that they’ve been exploring in class. The irony is that Damien’s thought experiment has been put into action; the film begins with the murder of a woman who has been chosen at random. Complicating matters is a chance meeting with Zoé (Julie-Marie Parmentier), a woman who works at an optometrist’s office nearby the crime scene. The two young murderers bump into Zoé as they are fleeing the crime and it’s not long after the story of the murder becomes a news sensation that she starts to suspect that these two teens are responsible.

The film switches back and forth between Zoé’s obsession with the murder and the boys’ response to the aftermath of their crime. A complex relationship exists between these two boys; the blond-haired and confident Damien is easily the dominant figure, whereas the soft-spoken Pierre quietly anguishes over what they have done. The film very clearly stresses the homoerotic tension that exists between these two boys; as Pierre flirts with a fellow female classmate, we can see the look of jealousy in Damien’s eyes. Another scene has Damien dressing up in her mom’s clothing in a mock-playful fashion to further emphasize the close but inarticulate bond between these two boys share.

One of the smartest things that Fever does is to foreground the theoretical concepts that are inextricably linked to this crime. Damien and Pierre read Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem for their philosophy class, and that book’s famous exploration on the “banality of evil” clearly correlates with the action of the film. Damien also discovers that his beloved grandfather was a collaborator with the Vichy government during World War II. The two teens become obsessed with researching what he had to do and they struggle to square the man’s actions in the past with his current kindly demeanor. Issues of morality and guilt are very much in spotlighted by the filmmakers, albeit in a manner that is never didactic or smug.

Despite the fact that the film tackles these weighty concepts, Fever manages to be a tonally quirky film. A sense of playfulness is generated by the unique soundtrack by French musician Camille, which is a sort of avant-gade cabaret style. One of the most unusual scenes occurs when Zoé and her husband attend a performance by Alice Snow (played by Camille herself) where she sings the title song in an a capella fashion that provides both the vocals and the percussive accompaniment. It’s a moment that serves to highlight the lyrics: “You give me fever – when you kiss me, fever when you hold me tight / Fever – in the morning, fever all through the night.” This conception of “fever” refers not only to the intellectual whirlwind that has consumed the lives of Damien and Pierre but also reflects a personal conflict that exists between Zoé and her husband. Zoé’s obsession with the absurdity of a senseless murder causes her to call into question her own life and the feelings that she has with her husband. Fever concludes on an ambiguous note that some viewers will find unsatisfying but is in keeping with the spirit of inquiry that Damien and Pierre’s philosophy teacher seeks to instill in her class; the point is not that the film tells you what to think, but that it inspires you to think at all.

Video/Audio/Extras:

Artsploitation’s DVD release of Fever presents the film in an excellent 2.35:1 transfer. Neal’s film is not stylistically flashy (this is more a film about ideas than action) so the lack of high definition is not a big deal. There are no imperfections to report.

There are two audio tracks on the DVD. The primary, and recommended, setting is a 5.1 Surround Sound track that does an excellent job. While the film is mostly dialogue driven, the track lets the rear channels do their work in outdoor scenes. Camille’s music comes through with clarity and provides a unique counterpoint to the action. There is also a 2.0 Stereo Track that is well balanced.

The only extras that exist are a theatrical trailer for the film and some annoying trailers for other Artsploitation releases that you need to skip through when you first put in the DVD.

The Final Word:

While Fever may not be as iconic as some of the other films that have been influenced by the Leopold and Loeb case, it’s a unique modern take on the subject matter that refreshingly spotlights the political and philosophical ideas that are involved in the crime. It’s willingness to avoid the conventionality of a film like Barbet Schroder’s lackluster Murder by Numbers (also inspired by Leopold and Loeb) deserves to be commended.

Matthew Scott Baker loves our new release, FEVER (2016)

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I am so thankful the fine folks at Artsploitation Films have high standards of quality for their films. They are one of the few film companies that seem to continually release good movies on a regular basis. Such is the case with today’s title, FEVER. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this one, but I’m happy to report the film delivers on several levels. It is a taut, effective thriller, but it’s also a gripping mystery as well. In short, FEVER is a nice piece of French cinema.

If you are not familiar with FEVER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Artsploitation Films:

High school students Damien and Pierre are from wealthy families with nothing seemingly in their lives to leave them disturbed. Yet they plan and carry out the murder of an unknown woman they have previously only spotted on the street. The police are at a loss, confused by this murder without motive. Zoé, an optician in the neighborhood, who is feeling more and more moved by this inexplicable murder, bumps into the teenage murderers by chance. But this chance fleeting encounter reveals inside her a growing and mysterious desire. Although scared (she could easily be a victim of Damien and Pierre), her erotic attraction for the duo goes beyond that. It gives her a chance to find a way out of the loveless rut that her life has ended up in. While Damien and Pierre, thinking no one will catch them, embark on a journey deep within their pasts. Inspired from a real life story of mindless and seemingly meaningless crime, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” and from the scandalous Leopold and Loeb case from the 1920s, this thoughtful psychological thriller will enthrall viewers.

This movie is based (partially) on real events, although I’m not sure what liberties the filmmakers took with the source material. As such, knowing this heightens the tension within the plotline for me and makes it an even scarier film.

FEVER is shot well and looks good from a cinematography perspective. The camerawork is less artistic and more story-driven, which works great for a film such as this. The locales are all urban, and nothing stands out in that area, but they do not distract either. Overall, the film appears to have a decent budget and production value.

The acting is impressive, with both Martin Loizillon and Pierre Moure portraying the two main characters. Both do a great job with their roles, and I expect to see more of them onscreen in the future. Likewise, actress Julie-Marie Parmentier shines as Zoe. The whole cast meshes well, which lends more credibility to the script.

The storyline in FEVER is where the film truly comes into its own. It is filled with tension and carries with it a disturbing air, as the two main characters seem to show no remorse for what they’ve done. Even more unsettling is the fact that the act seems to have stemmed from a concept they were required to write an essay about in school: liberty. As the explanation for their atrocity unfolds, the viewer is left with a chilling sense of dread; this could have happened to anybody at anytime, anywhere in the world.

If I were forced to find a negative about the film, I would have to mention the lack of clarification on a few points. Several writers and their works are mentioned and even discussed in the film, but we are not given explanations as to why. I am assuming it is to build a dramatic ambiance, however I’m not sure. This is not enough to detract heavily from the film, but I do feel it worth mentioning.

FEVER is still a great film, however, and I recommend giving it a look. The DVD does not contain an English dub-over track, so be prepared to read subtitles…but doing so is no problem for this reviewer. I enjoyed the film, and I look forward to seeing what Artsploitation has in line for us next time.

Artist Aaron Morgan Expresses Himself…

Aaron Morgan is a Seattle WA based artist/illustrator who specializes in figurative based art work. He draws his inspiration from found materials and tries to use them in a way that is either interesting to himself or may inspire the viewer to see the item in a new or unusual way. He used his talents to brilliant effect in creating the artwork for our upcoming release, Byron C. Miller‘s The Anatomy of Monsters:

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​​Adrian Roe speaks to Lucas Pavetto

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Who are your main influences within the genre, and what films do you regard as your favourites?

Certainly ‘The Shining’ has always been a favourite of mine, but I also love the Werner Herzog’s movies, he is one of the few remaining independent directors, a true artist. I also love the French horror scene, I particularly like Alexandre Aja, an amazing director.

The Perfect Husband is a fantastically emotional and terrifying premise. Where did the inspiration come from for such a storyline?

I decided to tackle head-on the fathomless darkness that can turn a couple’s relationship into a real nightmare, with the arrival of a still-born son, exorcising the anxiety and fear I was experiencing over the fact that I would soon become a father…

What is it that you wanted to achieve with this film?

A simple consideration that takes its cue from the facts of crime. No one knows anybody completely, not even those they are closest to.

The location is stunning; where was it shot?

Catania, Sicily, at the foot of the vulcan Etna. The Vulcan was actually erupting during all the shooting. I had to dub all the exterior scenes because the eruption noise!

I was impressed with the solid level of gore throughout, which took me back to the italian movies of yesteryear. What can you tell me about the FX on set, and was the level of violence an important part of the narrative from its inception?

Violence in this film is important for the audience to live a moment of madness. I wanted the scenes to be very strong and realistic so that the audience were quite taken by the protagonist, doing so, in the end the audience will be complicit wanting her to kill her husband.

The film successfully plays on the darkest side of human behaviour and fear, and I thought that the two main characters were superb. What was the hardest scene to shoot, and why?

The rape scene by the gypsy was not easy for Gabriella. It was very difficult for her, because she experienced real violence as a child.

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​I thought the film was a fantastic genre piece, with a disturbing twist that I didn’t see coming. How has it been received by fans, and are you happy with the finished result?

It wasn’t the finished movie it had intended to be. The beginning was planned to be much more complex, there were a lot of scenes that I had to cut due to lack of money, reducing the story to a few actors and a few locations, for the sake of the budget. As for fans, there were no compromises, there are those who hated it and those who loved it.

I have quite literally become a fan of your work overnight. What else can we expect in the future?

I have shot a new thriller called ALCOHOLIST in NY with BRET ROBERTS and GABRIELLA WRIGHTS, it also stars BILL MOSELEY (from The Devil’s Rejects). It is a story of a chronic alcoholic who spends all his time spying on his neighbour, waiting for the right moment to kill him. The movie was sold to a big distribution company, and it will be released later this year.

Congratulations to Lucas Pavetto for winning BEST HORROR FEATURE at this year’s Philadelphia Independent Film Festival!

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Wickedchannel.com weighs in on our new release, FEVER!

“I am a fan of the Artsploitation label. They have such a flair for the cutting edge in world cinema. They have a balance of art house and odd aggressive. This is a label that have had more movies in critics top ten than most major movie studios.” — James DePaolo, www.wickedchannel.com

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I am a fan of the Artsploitation label. They have such a flair for the cutting edge in world cinema. They have a balance of art house and odd aggressive. This is a label that have had more movies in critics top ten than most major movie studios. Being that I am a product of Buffalo New York’s art house 70’s style and then grew into the gritty French Quarter of New Orleans art house theaters where the theater is not even sure what they are going to show till it is curtains time. When I use a sentence that says, “ Artsploitation are going outside their comfort zone”, is when I feel excited for what I am about to explore. Raphael Neal has a history of acting and being a photographer, but his feature film debut showcases that maybe directing is his strong suit. For people not familiar with the source material of this film, it is a loose retelling of the true crime of Leopold and Loeb. Fever takes the story to a different playing field when we explore what would inspire their drive to carry out the crime. This film is rich in character development as we watch our main characters start to go into this mental manifestation while trying to justify to themselves that what they are doing is normal. The murder that happens in this film is not as special as watching this film and the direction the film takes to try and showcase such a weirdness yet paranoid frankness. The biggest positives to this film were the acting and the direction the film took. This film did not want to be the same old film we have seen countless times, it went into pastures never explored to give us such a depth to the characters and an idea how fractured and easily manipulated it was during this time.

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The biggest negatives, well smallest negatives because this film does not have big ones. I felt at time, it was a slow burn and seemed a bit repetitive in certain moments. The climax of the film may not be to everyone’s liking, but I did like it. People may feel in the dark if they are familiar with the case. While this film gives you all the info you would need, some people do not like going blind into these kinds of mystery films. For a company that has more hits than misses, this is clearly a good little film that deserves to get some attention and maybe have some people watching it. If you let this film manipulate you, you will become a fan by the middle. My advice, sit back and have fun and let this film give you a different slice of pie.

8 out of 10

DoBlu.Com says FEVER is…

“An intelligent film with engaging performances that interacts more on an intellectual level than most thrillers [as it] wrestles more with its deeply abstract ideas. A delicate, thoughtful psychological exploration. Fever is for fans of international cinema interested in careful drama and big ideas.” — Matt Paprocki – www.doblu.com

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Fever is loosely inspired by the infamous Leopold and Loeb case of the 1920s which saw two wealthy students believe they had committed the perfect crime. The case has acted as the source of inspiration for many films over the years, including Hitchcock’s Rope. French director Raphaël Neal’s Fever is technically an adaptation of the 2005 novel by Leslie Kaplan. This is an intelligent film with engaging performances that interacts more on an intellectual level than most thrillers.

Two wealthy high school students deeply interested in philosophy decide to murder a random victim. Fever isn’t a mystery. The movie hardly dwells on the specifics of the crime committed together by Pierre (Pierre Moure) and Damien (Martin Loizillon). What we do get is an intimate look at their inner lives and the psychological aftermath of their act. They think they have gotten away with the crime until a neighbor becomes convinced these two teenagers are behind the murder.

Zoé (Julie-Marie Parmentier), an optician in the neighborhood, bumps into the teenage murderers by chance. The chance encounter draws Zoé deeper and deeper into the paths of Damien and Pierre. Meanwhile, Damien and Pierre become more interested in their family’s history during World War II and its connection to Adolf Eichmann and the Final Solution, the Nazi plan to exterminate Jewish people.

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Fever is a thoughtful thriller less concerned about gut-wrenching plot twists and wrestles more with its deeply abstract ideas. Like many French films, it has been constructed with an eye toward literary sources, including Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The baby-faced teenagers at the center of its narrative are more than just characters named Pierre and Damien, but meant to represent so much more symbolically. After becoming murderers, they become fascinated researching a relative that may or may not have been a French collaborator that worked with the Nazis as part of the Final Solution.

The aftermath of the crime does begin affecting the teenagers in completely different ways as they begin to understand what they’ve really done. Pierre is pensive and fraught with nerves, while the more outgoing Damien is seemingly more relaxed. Will the stress and pressure from their crime break these two childhood friends apart? That question is always hanging over Fever, even if the psychological thriller delves into its characters with subtle understanding.

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The French-language movie is a delicate, thoughtful psychological exploration of two teenagers. This is not a bloody thriller or even a particularly violent movie. Fever operates in bigger historical issues and deeper emotional responses than typical American fare, neatly setting up parallels between the murderous teenagers at its core and the French people after World War II. While Zoé’s somewhat superfluous side story adds tension, it feels underdeveloped. If you are looking for a slasher or neatly plotted murder thriller with twists and turns, this is not the movie for you. Fever is for fans of international cinema interested in careful drama and big ideas.

The 2014 French film is unrated and runs 81 minutes. It is presented in its native 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Artsploitation Films is its DVD distributor in America.

Der Bunker Director Discusses Film’s Reaction

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Some of us have that weird neighbour. The one that makes inexplicable noises at ungodly hours, or the one that hates any and all humans, but loves all 15 of their cats. However, it would be fair to say not many of us have neighbours like that of Der Bunker.

Already screened in cinemas across the world and with an official release date of 21st January in Berlin (see here for more details), Der Bunker is a black comedy that tells of a university student who rents a room in a family’s forest cabin to concentrate on his studies. However, things start to take a turn for the strange, when the family asks the student if he could help tutor their only son, Klaus. Only, this “child” has evidently been brought up in a rather odd household, and before long, the student starts to discover just how crazy a situation he’s got himself into.

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The film’s director, Berlin-based Nikias Chryssos, tells Berlin Loves You of the response to Der Bunker, the filming process, and what we can expect from the talented filmmaker in the future.

“Der Bunker was a creative roller coaster, the film felt alive at all times,” says Chryssos. “We shot close to Berlin, in a suburban neighborhood called Kleinmachnow. The production team redesigned an entire regular family house as an underground bunker and then we locked ourselves in with the crew and actors. Soon, we felt quite psychotic ourselves.”

The German movie industry has a lot to be excited about, as along with recent stunning films like Victoria and Der Samurai, Der Bunker is a film that forges its own path – creating something truly unique and palpable. “It’s not a film for everyone, so I feel lucky it went to so many festivals where it received good feedback from the audience and also very positive press reviews,” tells Chryssos.

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With an upcoming DVD release in late January in the US, Chryssos is thrilled for his first full-length film to become more open and accessible to a whole new set of film lovers – the ones that like to watch movies at home. “BluRay and DVD gives us a chance to produce some really nice bonus features like ‘deleted scenes.’ You’ll find some cool stuff like Klaus and his father speaking English in order to prepare the boy for the global stage or the mother singing a creepy lullaby,” Chryssos explains.

Off the success of winning ‘Best Director’ at the 2015 Ithaca International Fantastic Film Festival for Der Bunker, Chryssos is currently working hard on his next projects, including a children’s movie that he describes as “Toy Story written by Roald Dahl.”

The AF Bio: Gabriella Wright

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A model, a humanitarian, a musician, an actress, and an artist, Gabriella Wright has enjoyed a rich and varied life behind the camera since since her film debut in 2004. She is best known for playing Queen Claude of France in the series The Tudors and “Gina” in the action thriller The Transporter Refueled.

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She will next be seen as a woman in danger in our upcoming thriller, Lucas Pavetto’s The Perfect Husband, available July 26th on DVD!

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The AF Bio – Bret Roberts

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Bret Roberts, star of our upcoming feature, The Perfect Husband, is a producer, actor, writer and musician who was born in Anchorage, Alaska in 1975. He made his screen debut as a sailor in Pearl Harbor (2001) and began producing in 2007 with “Blind Man”. His rugged good looks and rough-hewn appearance have led to him being typecast as a blue-collar tough, and he has portrayed a number of bad guys in cult horror films such as “Red Velvet” and “Raven”. Although he has almost 50 films to his credit over the span of a 16-year career, mostly in supporting roles or as a bit player, it was his role as real-life murderer Richard Ramirez in the 2002 horror documentary Nightstalker (film) that made audiences sit up and take notice. A cameo as Jim Morrison in My Dinner with Jimi (2003) led many to remark on his uncanny resemblance to the legendary musician. Roberts appeared in a Little Big Town country music video and has written a song for a video documentary, “Utah Too Much”.
WATCH THE PERFECT HUSBAND ON DVD JULY 26TH