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rochefort [Celluloid 09.29.15] Greece scifi comedy thriller

[Our Cannes review is equally praising!]

David (Colin Farrell) is a recently-divorced single man who has been given forty-five days to find a new life mate, and if unable to do so he will be turned into an animal and released into the wild; David's choice of animal should he fail is a lobster, since they live a long time. His is an oddball, day-after-tomorrow dystopian future where single adults are no longer tolerated, and a strict new authoritarian structure has become the most oppressive kind of matchmaking system imaginable. David is sent to The Hotel, where guests are given identical clothing and encouraged to attend dances and dinners in the hopes that they'll find true love, or at least a suitable life partner. And whenever the siren goes off, he and his fellow guests grab rain slickers and dart guns and head into the woods to tranquilize previous guests who failed in their quest for amor.

At times stupefyingly sad, but mostly dryly funny, director Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster is one of the most inventive movies you'll see all year. The admittedly ridiculous premise is one that a lot of filmmakers would probably drench in symbolism and forced subtext in an attempt to make something self-satisfyingly dour, but Lanthimos and co-scriptwriter Efthymis Filippou opt to let the metaphors fend for themselves and mine the material for as much weird humor as possible. The rules of this dystopia are fairly simple. If you're single, you have two options. For most people, you have forty-five days to avoid being turned into fauna, and the guests of The Hotel seek out prospective mates using the simplest of criteria, e.g., if you have a limp you should seek out someone else with a limp or at least a club foot. If you escape the system, you have to go live in the woods with a cult led by the "Loner Leader" (Lea Seydoux), where everyone is required to keep to themselves lest they suffer bloody bodily punishment. In this world, self-deception is the strongest survival mechanism, as the best way to secure a mate is to become a mirror image of the nearest prospect, and the best way to stay safe in the Loner cult is to deny your attraction to anyone.

You couldn't be faulted for expecting that in a cast which includes John C. Reilly as a lisping sad sack, Ben Whishaw as a limping opportunist, and Rachel Weisz as both David's love interest and the story's narrator, that Colin Farrell would be the weak link, but this is the best role he's had in a long time. He's packed on the weight, grown what is perhaps his ugliest mustache ever (and yeah, I saw Miami Vice), and gets to use his real accent for a change, and his David is a real treat to watch. All the characters speak to each other in the most matter-of-fact, often monotone manner, and Farrell's performance is no exception, but he manages to turn David into a nobody who matters.

Speaking of denial, I know it's kinda lazy to do the old comparison of one director's style to another, but as the film played I couldn't help but think that The Lobster is the kind of film Stanley Kubrick might have made. The crisp composition, incredibly vivid photography, the quasi-mechanical line deliveries, just the whole feel of the thing comes off like something Kubrick might have done during an especially playful period in his career. Which is not to say that this is the feel good movie of the year; far from it. But there's a purity to the whole thing that you don't see in nearly enough movies anymore. This is not a story that needs to be constantly analyzed in relation to our own reality. It's fable-making at its best.

Recommended Release: Dogtooth

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