Words by Francesco Alò
Translation by Bianca Baroni
In collaboration with Badtaste.it
The Bleeder by Philippe Falardeau, presented out of competition, reminds us of the structures of Black Mass, shown as first preview last year to the audicence of the Festival.
With his frames, full of green bokeh, Falardeau portrays the souls of a neighborhood of Bayonne: narrow bars on the roadside, illuminated by a purple neon and a hulk played by Liev Schreiber in a long leather jacket, with showy mustaches, perfect for that funk atmosphere of the ‘70s.
The Bleeder is in debt with Scott Cooper’s gangster as much as it is with David O. Russel’s Joy. And not only for temporal-scenography matters. The narration is in Wepner’s hands, between moanings, rising thoughts and regrets not to have taken the lucky occasions at the right moments. In fact you can’t define it as a movie about sport. Boxing isn’t at the center of the poll. It’s a tragedy for the heart of an eternal loser, a suburbs hero who’s bound to brush against the paradise of boxing and Hollywood and who will remain burnt, swallowed and spitted.
And it’s in the highest peak of his decline that we discover that we already know him. AS we said from the beginning, we are watching the events of a man whose actions have alreay been told: the true Rocky Balboa. But we didn’t know about his existence. And we have doubts about what the first-person narrator, Chuck himself, says. The first fraiming shows him facing Victor, the brown bear, the wrestling bear from Clint Eastwood’s Paint Your Wagon, in an improvised ring in a club.
The narration of the fall, in a backward temporal order, circular and fluent, follows the origins of the myth. The Polish origins and the work ethic of New Jersey molded the fighter and Schreiber, after the attempt with Spotlight, gets dirty with sweat and blood, giving to the character such a widest emotional range that offers a sentimental thickness that is much more suffering.
The excuses not to have reached fame, the inclination to be an inattentive father and his dependence from cocaine get a different weigh, as if the director wouldn’t feel free to judge him. As if Wepner’s shadow wouldn’t ever be in line with any sketchiness about boxing, about cinema but only with an overloaded ego.
We find once again Ron Perlman as the coach, “Don King” Al Braverman, completely at ease with Schreiber, thanks to the funny role of a promoter, more incline to slaps rather than to sould intimacies. Nicolas Bolduc’s photography reminds us to the pop soul of the ‘70s using crooked and trembling framings, especially during the parties. Sometimes the fictional part combines with the real, thanks to the use of some frames of those times.
Even with a strong reconstruction of the fightings on rings, the most interesting part of The Bleeder arrives in the second part, after the meeting with Stallone, his approach to Hollywood nuts and bolts and the first identity crisis.
Bleeder doesn’t say anything new on the topic. The approach is the one of the same old loser consumed by his own celebrity. It doesn’t belong the the innovative movies, buti t amazes for the great structure of a egotistic boxer, sewed up thanks to the abilities of a perfet Liev Schreier, bitter and sarcastic just like the fate of the protagonist.