Film / Vidocq

Vidocq is a French supernatural thriller from 2001, featuring Gérard Depardieu as the title character. It is notable for being the very first film shot entirely with a digital camera.

1830. As the July Revolution looms in the horizon, private detective Vidocq disappears while searching a masked killer named The Alchemist. His biographer Etienne Boisset then starts tracking his movements, while The Alchemist tracks his.

This film has the examples of:

  • Acrofatic: The title character is quite agile, in spite of his thick belly.
  • Ambiguous Gender: The Alchemist's gender is left ambiguous for a good part of the film, given that he utters female sighs and giggles while fighting.
  • Badass Cape: The Alchemist's hooded cape is so badass that physics are barely a suggestion to it.
  • Badass Normal: Although he is not at the physical level of the eternally young Alchemist, Vidocq is able to hold his own quite well against him.
  • Character Title: The film named after Vidocq, who is gone before the opening credits roll.
  • Confusion Fu: Due to his flowing robe and strange movements, it's not easy at all to distinguish The Alchemist's movements during a fight, something which he capitalizes to land hits on Vidocq in sucession.
  • Dance Battler: The Alchemist's fighting style resembles late capoeira at some points, in contrast with the more stern savate practised by Vidocq.
  • The End... Or Is It?: As the characters are walking away from the graveyard at the end of the film, someone is shown spying on them from inside a crypt.
  • Genius Bruiser: Vidocq. Large, strong, surprisingly fast, manages to hold his own in fights against supernaturally-empowered foe, has a crime lab Batman would be proud of had he lived in the 1830's, and is the father of modern criminal science.
  • Giggling Villain: The Alchemist giggle several times while fighting Vidocq in the flashbacks.
  • Guttural Growler: Vidocq grunts heavily all the time while fighting.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Eugène Vidocq, who was the very first private detective in France.
  • Immortality Immorality: The Alchemist's mask grants him immortality and eternal youth by storing and slowly draining the souls of people who died staring into his mask. Said mask must be tempered in the blood of about 100 virgins as part of its construction and periodic reforging.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Happens quite literally to Vidocq's partner Nimier in the climactic fight. He shoots the Alchemist in the face with his shot pistol - cue the Alchemist's mask absorbing the shot balls like it was made from mercury, then sending them back out in the opposite direction as fast as they were going, resulting in Nimier catching the full brunt of the blast in the chest and dying soon afterwards.
  • Impaled With Extre Me Prejudice: Vidocq impales the Alchemist with a huge mirror shard, and sends him crashing through a window.
  • In the Hood: The Alchemist wears a black hood over his mirrored mask.
  • Kick Chick: Evoked by the Alchemist, who seems to be a woman judging for his sighs, and whose fighting style is based in kicks behind cape whirls. Subverted at the end, as he is a man.
  • Mask of Power: The Alchemist's Cool Mask is made out of mirror that he uses to eat the souls of his victims. For extra creepiness, it also makes the victim see their own dying face while looking at him.
  • Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: Subverted. Vidocq's lover Preah is an entertainer whose act is about passing herself off as an exotic southeast asian dancer, but she's actually a frenchwoman. It's implied they're together because he saw the real her through the disguise.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The Alchemist not only teleports offscreen but also manages to change his position in absolutely impossible movements. However, this is consistent with the villain's impossible nature, who even manages to have two left arms in one scene.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Alchemist seems to have haunted Paris since The Middle Ages. And he still looks like a young man.
  • Reformed Criminal: Vidocq was this, both in the film and in Real Life.
  • The Reveal:
    • Vidocq has been Faking the Dead to trap the Alchemist.
    • It turns out that Etienne is the Alchemist himself, who tries to find and eliminate all clues leading to him that Vidocq left.
  • Serial Killer: The Alchemist has been killing people long before the film starts.
  • Posthumous Character: Vidocq himself. Which is actually a ruse.
  • Scooby-Doo Hoax: Played with. At first it seems that the murders are this, but then it turns out that the Alchemist really is a supernatural killer.
  • Soft Glass: Made into a subtle hint of future plot development, as the Alchemist (a walking defiance of physics) jumps through a large window and several stories to the ground, walking away unharmed. Later on, Etienne does the same thing.
  • Sword Cane: Vidocq has one, which uses in the opening fight scene.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: The Alchemist requires the blood of young female virgins to keep the mask that gives him his powers on the mend. The details are unclear, but one escaped subject seemed to have had her tongue cut out, and his laboratory contained mutilated human remains and rags that may have started out as human skins.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: The Alchemist devours the souls of his victims through his mirrored mask to maintain his immortality.