I wish to start saying, that this movie is definitely not enjoyable at all. By the means of having a great fun time at the movie-theatre.
So if you are mostly to Hollywood-Popcorn-Horror-Flics and that's exactly what you expect of a good movie, do yourself a favor and don't watch CALVAIRE.
If you like European Art-house Cinema and are also devoted to real rough and downbeating horror movies, you should have a closer look at this interestingly done work of Fabrice Du Welz.
The young director puts the viewer always in the middle of what is shown on the screen. The beautiful photographed frames are supported through the high grained film material. It nearly looks like a dokumentary, but without the handhold camera style. No bright colours have been used, the colours even look washed out, slightly fading into grey. So the look is very authentic. The Settings are all natural. There is no artificial studio-stage touch in this movie. No additional lightning seems to be added. This style helps the movie to draw the audience perfect into it. Shot on an aspect ratio of 2.35 : 1, this movie is a real cineatic feast when taking part in a movie theatre presentation. Its frames stand for themselves. The power of the pictures (like paintings) speak a more clearly language than every average dialogue in a Hollywood production does. This is cineastic story telling at its best. I also liked the extremely slow pasted development of the story.
The movie's start-off could be made by FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT. Even the protagonist, Marc Stevens (played by LAURENT LUCAS) reminded me a bit of JEAN PIERRE LEAUD (he portraited the character of Antoine Doinel in 4 of Truffaut's films). He performs a chansons singer, who is about to travel through the country for his next concert to give. Unfortunately his traveling van stops in the middle of nowhere. Not enough to be stucked deep in an unknown forest it is - of course - raining cats and dogs. Guided by a young man, who is searching the forest for his missing dog, Stevens reaches an auberge (motel) by foot. The owner, Mr. Bartel lives all alone in there. The auberge has been closed a long time ago for the public. But the kindly behaving old man has preserved the rooms as they where when guests used to be around. Bartel is a man who seems to earn his living with farming. No other houses are build near his estate. Stevens is offered to stay for the night and Bartel promises to get and repair his broken van the next morning. During the dinner Bartel tells Stevens that he was left by his wife and we feel, that he's still suffering from that loss. He seems to be most happy about that his guest is an artist, acclaiming he was an artist too. Not a singer but a comedian, who even won a price for his humor. By the way, his gone wife had been a passionded artist too, so he tells. After a short performance of Stevens, Bartel begins crying. Bartel is fascinated by the singers passion to his art and becomes very sad due to his lost past in which he obviously still lives (imaginary).
Stevens goes to bed after this conversation, Thinking, he will be able to continue his journey the next day. But his unexpected rest at the auberge will be unwillingly prolonged for a much longer time than he could imagine at that moment.
What happens next is a slow pasted tour de force of pain, agony, fear and hatred in the strangest way ever filmed for the big screen. Including the disturbing sickness of Bartel's mind. But he is not the only weird guy around this area. The most over-the-top portraited hillbillies ever shown up in a movie will appear in the near future to enlight the audience with laughs and - followed up - with the helpless fear of "what will there be next?". Have a seat, take a roller-coaster ride with a movie which leaves the shocks of THE Texas CHAINSAW MASSACRE and STRAW DOGS easily behind. I understand this one as a very, very black comedy which is "enjoyable" for open minded people with a cineastic interest.
There are some things in this movie which may let one think, this is an analogy to the passion of Jesus Christ. Some symbols cannot be overseen. The conversation about passion for the things you do by heart are significant. At the end, all things become clear (I don't want to spoil it here) and the audience is left alone with it. A very long end-credit sequence follows. Like in the movie SEUL CONTRE TOUS (I STAND ALONE/ MENSCHENFEIND) from director GASPAR NOÉ, an open end is presented. In Noé's movie a road is shown, leading to nowhere (or to an unknown future), while in Du Welz' movie we are left alone in a wide opened cold and foggy snow frozen forest area. We listen to the sounding wind. It blows and blows - not willing to end its cruel howling. No music, just the never ending isolation.
If you see this "wonderful" movie you'll remember this howling a long time.
8 out of 10
P.S. please excuse possible spelling mistakes