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Film review: Carnages

Catherine Deneuve's daughter, Chiara Mastroianni, stars as Carlotta.
Catherine Deneuve's daughter, Chiara Mastroianni, stars as Carlotta.

It's a lot easier to appreciate "Carnages" for its unique storytelling style and method of character development than it is to understand what the filmmaker was trying to say.

This fantasy-drama from first-time writer/director Delphine Gleize may be a little bit too bizarre and too obscure for some U.S. audiences. (Your comprehension of certain scenes may depend on a knowledge of bullfighting.)

But for those who are patient, there are quite a few things to admire, including the performances and the film's ambitious, audacious storytelling conceits. (Try to remember that it echoes such works as Robert Altman's "Nashville" and Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," which also tied together multiple events and characters with one specific plot point.)

"Carnages" begins with a young matador (Julien Lescarret) being gored, nearly fatally. The unfortunate animal is then slain and slaughtered, and its parts — including flesh, bones and horns — are scattered and wind up in the possession of the film's various characters. Among them is Alicia (Angela Molina), who appears to be hiding a dark secret from her daughter, Jeanne (Lucia Sanchez), an elementary school teacher.

Among the many other characters and subplots are Jeanne's student Winnie (newcomer Rafaelle Molinier), a young girl who happens to be a bullfighting fan; a frustrated actress, Carlotta (Chiara Mastroianni), who sells one of the bull's leg bones to Winnie's neglectful parents (as a treat for their beloved pet); and a suicidal philosopher-turned-skater (Clovis Cornillac).

It's surprising and impressive that Gleize manages to find time for all of them. But it also makes the movie unwieldy (at more than two hours, it starts to become a little tiresome).

The cast manages to make it watchable, especially Mastroianni (who looks eerily like her mother, Catherine Deneuve) and Molina, whose intensity is welcome.

"Carnages" is not rated but would probably receive an R for violence (scenes of bullfighting, as well as some vehicular violence), full male and female nudity, scattered use of strong sexual profanity, a brief sex scene, brief drug content (hypodermic use) and gore (including a scene of animal slaughtering). Running time: 127 minutes.