BAD GENRES (MAUVAIS GENRES)

Sunday, Oct. 20, 2 p.m.
JCC Theatre, $9

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First off, you need to get past the title, Bad Genres. The film’s opening credits actually translate Mauvais Genres as Gender Bias, which makes a hell of a lot more sense given the subject and tone of this Belgian thriller.

Although, if you want a more literal title for description, 101 Red Herrings may suffice.

Bo Ancellin’s life has not been easy. A transsexual, when she was a young boy her father abused her. She ran away from home, but when returned by the police no one would believe her stories about her father, a prominent figure in Brussels. But now her father stands accused of abusing young boys, and the police want Bo’s help.

Meanwhile, a rough trade punk named Johnny has moved in next door, running drugs, servicing older women and catching Bo’s eye. Then there’s the demented killer slicing up trans prostitutes, and the police think Bo may lead them to — or perhaps be — the killer.

Sounds complex? Not really. The movie takes a rather leisurely pace, and after a couple of perfunctory killings in the first few minutes, the first half focuses more on Bo’s pursuit of Johnny. Unfortunately, Johnny’s a brutal boy who seems to get more enjoyment out of toying with Bo and breaking her arm than from any flirtation between the two. Why Bo keeps submitting herself to this brutality — other than for the advancement of the plot — seems to be one of the movie’s biggest mysteries (along with the amazement you’ll feel at the very high standard of living enjoyed by transsexual street prostitutes in Brussels — from the looks of their apartments and neighborhoods, they must have a great union).

Mauvais Genres is the kind of thriller that seems complex only because key information is withheld, making any attempts to figure out the killer’s identity a waste of time. While red herrings fly fast and furious, real clues are nowhere to be found. Instead, the film drops into a black hole of exposition for the last ten or fifteen minutes, where things are revealed and motives explained, and nothing seems to be connected to anything else.

Motivation and structure problems aside, the consistent pleasure of Mauvais Genres is Robinson Stévenin’s performance as Bo . Stévenin doesn’t polish over Bo’s more unattractive aspects, and never allows the character to become a mere collection of gender clichés. It’s a performance more worthy than the movie it graces. — SB