A woman falling prey to psychotic romantic obsession is a story older than the Bible, so plotwise Nathan Silver’s Thirst Street, about a grieving American flight attendant who moves to Paris to stalk her one-night fling, is nothing new. And truth be told, the opening minutes play like a marriage between Wes Anderson and 1970s giallo, with stylized montage, Anjelica Huston’s wry narration, and candy colors. What Thirst Street gets painfully right, though, is the desperate alienation of living in a beautiful country that doesn’t want you and that you don’t understand.
Lindsay Burdge plays Gina, a shy woman whose boyfriend has recently committed suicide. In a stupor, she allows her well-meaning coworkers to drag her to what the outdated guidebook promises is a quaint Parisian cabaret. It’s actually a strip club, and Gina goes home with the sketchy bartender, Jérôme (Damien Bonnard). Whether by chance or because we’re trapped in her already unmoored perspective, he looks just like her dead partner. By morning, she’s in love.
As Jérôme is too cowardly to reject her outright, all of his indirect deflections only feed her mania. He protests that he doesn’t want a long-distance relationship. She moves to Paris. He needs to work instead of having her over. She gets a job at the titty bar. And throughout, her very poor French shields her from the cruelty, perversion, and mockery of the people around her. “You have to use your breasts, Gina,” the dissatisfied boss of the club says in French. “Customers will slide bills into your cleavage.” This is translated for her as “You need to allow customers to be friendly toward you.” When Jérôme’s ex, a rock star, returns from a tour, Gina’s fixation begins to unnerve the Parisians even as they unwisely string her along.
We’ve all heard enough boiled bunny references to last a lifetime, and you might wonder if the world really needed another entry in the hell-hath-no-fury genre. But Burdge plays Gina as a devastated, rootless woman rather than male paranoia given flesh. Somehow, her acting combines with cinematography straight from an artsy 1970s porno and a soundtrack of woozy love songs to create an expressionist portrait of overwhelming loneliness.
For more info about this and other movies screening this weekend, see Movie Times.