Look, I understand that Thirst Street, a Parisian-set drama-comedy-satire-horror-romance, is probably not on your radar but I’m here to explain why it ought to be and why you should see it immediately. Sure, this dingy little twist on foreign love gone wrong from Nathan Silver probably won’t get anything close to a wide release but if you’re looking for a hip AF cult flick to champion this fall, ready for an awkwardly charming and yet totally unnerving femme fatale and willing to receive the most demented “fuck dudes” obsession thriller this side of Gone Girl then Thirst Street has your name written all over it.
Things start rough as Gina (Lindsay Burdge), a stuck-in-a-rut American flight attendant, returns home to find her boyfriend swinging from the ceiling fan. Not one to cause a ruckus and tell her co-workers and the closet thing she has to friends about her beau’s suicide, Gina surpasses her emotions and gets back to work. After a rigged encounter with a beefy Botoxed-lipped fortune teller, Gina finds herself falling in love with smooth-talking Parisian bartender, Jérôme (Damien Bonnard), a Frenchman looking for a late night score. Mistaking casual fornication for budding romance, Gina packs up and moves to the City of Lights.
We’ve seen this formula before. Girl falls for guy. Guy does not care for girl. Girl becomes obsessed. Punishes guy. But the way that it plays out is so acutely unique in Thirst Street that it feels like you’re seeing it for the first time. This is a feature that from its very first seconds pops you in the face with just how self-aware it is. It doesn’t hurt that the great Anjelica Huston provides wistful narration throughout, doling out lines that are airy and delicate as the film’s protagonist proves bumbling and desperately aloof. Even though you can see where things are headed, the ill-fated romance feels fresh, refreshing almost, because Silver manages to make scenes feel both emotionally painful and tonally playful. The characters are real, even though the situations are heightened.
What follows is endless uncomfortable as Gina, a character who is both acutely weird and overbearingly unremarkable, tries to work her way into Jérôme’s life, even though he gives no signs that he wants her around after their one-night stand. She moves into an apartment next door, watching for him from her window nightly. Cramming into her bustiest garb, she takes up as a cocktail waitress in the bar Jérôme tends, much to the later’s dismay. Things finally get ugly when Jérôme’s ex-lover enters the picture.
A psychedelic 70s exploitation look and feel gives Thirst Street a dreamy Euro-Trash quality. There’s a dirty, grainy quality to the film that makes it feel like a discovery from an earlier time, some forgotten VHS finally uncovered, with the pulsing 80s-inspired synch score giving Thirst Street an even more unsettling edge. Bright splashes of primary color dominate the film’s color palette, giving it that neon-tinged pop that so many lesser filmmaker think makes their movie look cool and hip and edgy but actually does all that when it’s used here.
The one other film that I kept thinking of as I watched Thirst Street was Amélie, a favorite of mine. From sharing its Paris backdrop to its quirky, light-on-its-feet narration to its protagonist’s breezy but sanctimonious matter of manipulating the world, this feels like a spiritual sequel in many senses and those who fawned for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s textured cinescapes and peculiar characters will find much to love here.
But perhaps the most important parallel between the two is the leading ladies. At the forefront, Burdge proves phenomenal starring power. From confusing pity for love, a quick shag for meaningful courtship, and then brutal honesty for life-shaking betrayal, she manages to portray unhinged as friendly and well-meaning and it is nothing short of delicious to witness.
Gina as a character is both pathetic and fascinating, from bashing her head against a mirror for attention to eavesdrops on conversations not intentioned for her. The way she forces her way into the lives of unsuspecting others is at first pitiable and later all sorts of terrifying and Burdge’s ability to show these different sides of Gina while keeping her grounded and feeling like flesh and blood is one of the film’s greatest accomplishments. Like Carrie all grown up, Gina will make you fear discarded woman once more.
CONCLUSION: A hallucinatory psychosexual-thriller/twisted-rom-com ‘Thirst Street’ will undoubtedly remain one of the year’s best undiscovered gems. With an ace up his sleeve in star Lindsay Burdge, director Nathan Silver tells this story of unrequited love with splashes of startling comedy, dreamlike imagery and a prevailing sense of dread and watching it is nothing short of a rare treat.