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Friday
29May

Jean-Claude Van Damme's Existential Crisis

The film "JCVD," directed by Mabrouk El Mechri in 2008, starts like a typical Wal-Mart action special starring a skilled hardbody - guns, fights, explosions - but quickly takes on a somber, intelligent tone. Jean-Claude Van Damme, playing himself in an alternate? reality struggles with income, finding a decent production and custody issues following divorce.

He seeks solace in his hometown of Brussels, but is caught in an identity struggle between himself and the actor portrayed on screen. He ends up in the middle of a hostage situation at a local post office - the police believe he's responsible for the crime - thousands of JCVD fans crowd around the S.W.A.T. trucks and police cars, cheering him on.

The film's utterly surreal tour de force comes later in the film, when JCVD's rises up past the movie set and into the light rig above, delivering a surprisingly sober and heart wrenching 10-minute monologue deconstructing the film industry.

"JCVD" is an important film, because there's only a few B-Movie action stars as well known or influential as Jean-Claude - it is literally a cry of desperation from a man fully embedded in the Hollywood marketing machine. No other film could replicate it.

 

As a movie itself, about a hostage situation in a small town in Brussels, it's actually a very engaging movie with great cinematography, acting (especially from JCVD), editing, dialogue, and direction. I cared more about a real, fake version of Jean-Claude than about an equally infamous Mickey Rourke moping around in "The Wrestler."

Be careful about watching the trailer for the movie, as the distributor didn't know who to market this film to, so it's weird edit with action, comedy, and bad music:

 

Bonus: For a much crazier (schizophrenic) deconstruction of Hollywood that was produced, directed, written by Anthony Hopkins and stars Christian Slater among others, check out "Slipstream"

 

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