(1975, Bel, 91 min) Dir Helmut Durmou. Cast Hal Normand, Lisa Beit, Howard Messinger.
Dormou’s debut Elisa Lees had many fans, among them the middle-aged Belgian millionaire Francois Fleider who adopted the Swiss director as a kindred spirit and supported him with not just the money to make his films but also, for the making of Le Château, the use of his impressive residence in the South of France to film in. Fleider didn’t even ask to be featured in the films he funded, the usual vain request made as part of such a deal – all that he requested was to be present at the filming which Dormou allowed. The first result of this partnership, Le Château is set in an unnamed lush countryside where, once a year, the occupiers of the nearby hilltop castle audition for playthings among the local population and, more than that, said locals line up to be judged. The structure of the film allows for agonisingly long foreplay where what awaits those deemed worthy is hinted at but not fully revealed until the end. Not that this is a tip to those unwilling to wait – steady your fingers on the remote control, press ye not the fast forward button for the build up is the point and half the pleasure for Dormou now betrays a mastery of the suspense of film, of suggestion and denial that makes the release of the films denouement all the sweeter.