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"The Elementary Particles" Loses Novel's Edge?

by Anthony Kaufman
February 14, 2006 7:22 AM
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"As he watched, the unshakeable conviction grew that nature, taken as a whole, was a repulsive cesspit. All in all, nature deserved to be wiped out in a holocaust -- and man's mission on earth was probably to do just that." -- Michel Houellebecq, "The Elementary Particles."

Oh, it's too bad that word from the Berlin Film Festival suggests that the new film version of Houellebecq's controversial novel -- about two disaffected, depressed half-brothers -- is not the inciting piece of provocation it could have been. Of the film, starring, among others, "Run Lola Run" German stars Moritz Bleibtrau and Franke Potente, Variety critic Leslie Felperin writes, "Unfortunately, where Houellebecq's novel puts its characters' in a nihilistic vice and never stops squeezing, pic wimps out and tacks on a sugary ending, with one character allowed to be happy through manic delusion and two others let off the book's hook."

Still, the movie seems to be one of the biggest buzz films of the festival, with Variety reporting sales the world over (except the U.S.). Seems some North American buyers are skittish about the film's graphic depictions of sex and masturbation. I wonder if the film includes this scene from the book: "The woman began to jerk him off while Christiane continued to lick the glans. In a matter of seconds, he shuddered with a spasm of pleasure and came all over her face." Gee, even with a happy ending, U.S. buyers still aren't mollified?

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