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Originally published Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 3:01 PM

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‘The Monk’: Atmospheric potboiler goes from cool to hot

A movie review of “The Monk,” a French-language melodrama in which the title character (Vincent Cassel) is beset with terrible spiritual torments.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 2.5 stars

“The Monk,” with Vincent Cassel, Déborah François, Joséphine Japy, Geraldine Chaplin. Directed by Dominik Moll, from a screenplay by Moll and Anne-Louise Trividic. 101 minutes. Rated R or some sexuality, brief graphic nudity and violent images. In French, with English subtitles. SIFF Cinema (Friday-Sunday at the Film Center and weekdays at the Uptown).

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It’s the dark night of the soul in “The Monk,” and we’re not speaking figuratively here. A dark monastery and a dark cemetery, not to mention a dank dungeon and a shadow-shrouded bedchamber, are the places where dark deeds are done in this French-
language melodrama in which the title character is beset with terrible spiritual torments.

Set in 16th-
century Spain and based on an 18th-century novel that was quite notorious in its day for its treatment of sexual matters, “The Monk” is a picture packed with portents: roiling clouds, threatening statuary — falling gargoyle zone; look out below! — a mystery figure in a crimson cloak, another one in a mask.

Atmospheric and stylish, all of it. Director/co-writer Dominik Moll (Anne-Louise Trividic shares screenplay credit) certainly has an eye for the arresting image.

In the title role, a bearded, gaunt-looking Vincent Cassel is fairly restrained in his portrayal of a man steeped in righteousness and self-certainty. His monk is a charismatic preacher and sternly judgmental moralist who finds his certitude undermined by the devil’s doings.

Moll’s measured pacing at first gives the movie the feel of a serious-minded drama. But as the incidents mount up and the sins escalate in severity — beware that seductive succubus, thou mixed-up man of God — the picture’s atmosphere of studied cool gives way to a fevered luridness. By the end,
“The Monk” has revealed itself to be a too-
predictable potboiler, served piping

Soren Andersen:

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