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Simon Read [Film Festival 06.16.11] movie review thriller drama

Year: 2010
Directors: Romain Gavras
Writers: Romain Gavras/Karim Boukercha
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 7 out of 10

Director Roman Gavras, best known for his work on gritty music videos (M.I.A.'s "Born Free" which was banned on several sites for it's violent content), has crafted a truly mad first feature about a bullied, obnoxious and extremely alienated young man called Remy (Olivier Bartelemy), who befriends a charismatic, psychotic psychiatrist played with courage by Vincent Cassel. The key linking them is that they both have red hair, and for years have felt victimised by society because of it. I wasn't aware that redheads got such abuse, but then again I live in Scotland. I would defy anyone to tell what this film is really about, it's so completely chaotic and stuffed with ideas and set-pieces that it's very difficult to know how to take it all in, but one thing is certain, it's very funny and extremely misanthropic, and I liked it.

Remy is pretty much a permanent victim, vilified by his family, his so called friends and even his internet girlfriend, who unfortunately turns out to be a six-foot, male goth pretending to be a girl on World of Warcraft (don't you just hate when that happens?), and until he meets Cassel's Patrick he seems destined for loserdom. Patrick himself seems miserable in his job, counselling drug addicts with raw sarcasm as he tries to surreptitiously eat crisps under his desk. He's driving past Remy's home as the police arrive to break-up a domestic disturbance caused by Remy, who has fled into the night. Patrick catches up with him, and spontaneously begins to teach him a few life lessons one of which is to throw peanuts at a biggest guy he can find in a local bar and then point to Remy and say, "It was him." Ouch.

The pair of them kind of knock about an unnamed French city for a while, causing trouble, getting drunk and flirting with local girls and patronising some appallingly bad rappers before breaking into a supermarket and stealing a moped. At a car hire agency Patrick - who I should mention again is a psychopath - accuses the salesman of only stocking cars fit for nineteen-eighties Jews, before turning the tables when the manager steps-in and accusing them both of racism. Remy watches on, inspired by the madness. When Patrick eventually tires of being the master, he lets his apprentice take the wheel on their bizarre, nihilistic road-trip. Remy, drunk with the power, decides that Ireland is where they'll go, where redheads are everywhere. Yes.

While the film starts off as a story about a naive youngster in the thrall of a crazy but charming father figure, it descends in it's last act into all out madness. There is a stay in a five-star hotel in the countryside (how do they afford all this?) during which Patrick pisses in a jacuzzi while forcing the occupants to remain where they are at gunpoint, and then happily climbs in himself and starts to... you'll just have to go and see it but those of you with an imagination can probably guess. This is what I mean about Cassel being brave in taking this role, it requires him to keep a straight face even while delivering the most absurd dialogue and performing acts of utter depravity, but he pulls it off pretty miraculously and I think in anyone else's hands the character wouldn't work as well. Similarly Bartelemy handles his role well, creating the right level of sympathy in amongst Remy's more hateful qualities. While at the hotel he tries to kiss the desk clerk, just to make sure he isn't gay like Patrick keeps telling him, then runs back to the room in excitement shouting, "I felt nothing! I'm not gay I tell you!" It's a surprisingly sweet moment.

Towards the end I notice that the entire mood had changed subtly over the course of the film, as if the state of mind of the characters was effecting the cinematography, the colours had become drained and the camera work ever more frantic and jerky. I can't tell you where or how the film resolves itself, but it's very fitting and the last shot is almost tear inducing, although there is such little reason to what's actually happened that you catch yourself before becoming emotional about our heroes, because they're not heroes at all, they're psychopaths. It's fun spending a a few days in their life, but the film doesn't create a sense of what's real or at stake, just a sense of nihilism, brutality and madness. If that's your cup of tea then seek this film out, but if you need a drama which actually makes sense then look elsewhere.

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