Francis Girod has a history of tormenting the screen lives of icons or ingénues, making Romy Schneider empty a dissolved corpse out of an acid bath bucketful by bucketful in Le Trio Infernal (1974) and then teenage star Sophie Marceau battle her older, alcoholic husband after he murders a local in Haiti in Descente aux Enfers (Descent into Hell, 1986). This time, it’s gorgeous Robinson Stévenin, one of France’s hottest teenage stars, who cops the role of Bo, a masochistic pre-op runaway living by her wits in Brussels.
Bo’s father, who she hasn’t seen for years, is arrested on sex abuse charges and she, as one of his early victims, is called as a witness. She’s reluctant to testify and the police station becomes her second home as a serial killer begins to strike at the Brussels tranny community. Bo falls in love with her handsome but cruel neighbour, a male escort who breaks her arm and spits on her, and she is increasingly surrounded by corrupt cops and plot threads that cast doubt on who may be secretly related to who complete the over-the-top picture and needless to say the killer plays symbolic carve-up games with his victims’ corpses and cuts out their tongues. Polanski meets Campion in this alluring psychosexual noir.
The greatest thing about it is Stévenin who is completely convincing and quite affecting as the tough-on-the-outside, puff-on-the-inside Bo. When Polanski dressed up as his female neighbour in The Tenant and ended up falling off her balcony in full drag, over-sized pumps askew at the bottom of his chunky French man’s legs, now that was just plain hilarious. Stévenin’s androgynous beauty is bewitching, and even in subsequent male roles, he looks like Bo. In this role, he wears light make up, fake boobs and a conservative female wardrobe replete with bouncy, healthy hair and the occasional alice band as he zips from scene to scene with elegance and panache. Like the similarly fine-featured River Phoenix Stévenin comes from an all-star, oddly-named family including brother Sagamore and sister Salomé, both popular actors in France, and his father is director Jean-François Stévenin.
Stévenin won a César Award as Most Promising Actor for this film, and he doesn’t miss a beat in a demanding role that has him on screen in almost every scene and which often requires him to be ridiculous. However, he plays Bo with sensitivity and intelligence.
Misty midnight wharves with chatting drag queen prostitutes, black-clad killers that the camera never allows us to fully see, glamourous clues (half torn opera tickets, for example) clandestine romances between cops and suspects saturate Transfixed and give the film a fun Cluedo air. Throw in a cast that’s 75% transsexual, replete with Diana, who looks exactly like the dead Princess, and you have a wonderful little film.
Alexandre Desplat’s original music is beautiful and kudos should also go to the hair, make up and costume team, who keep our beautiful heroine/possible killer poised and soap-clean pretty even when she’s splattered with blood.