Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 9:12 am 
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Schlub adventure satire

The American festival blurb for this film calls Vincent Macaigne's character, Marc Châtaigne, a "middle-aged intern." He's not really middle-aged - just bald and pudgy at 38. Macaigne makes an amiable fall guy, as seen in Louis Garrel's talky, stylish directorial debut Two Friends/Les deux amis where he's madly in love with an impossibly beautiful young woman (Goldshifteh Farahani). Macaigne has been acting in movies since he was 20, but lately he has been seen much more in ones that have made it outside Gallic territories. Four years ago he was in 2 Autumns, 3 Winters and Age of Panic/La bataille de Soférino and Guillaume Brac's Tonnerre.

In Antonin Peretjatko's slapstick comedy set in French Guyana, Macaigne/Châtaigne has been sent by the French Bureau of Standards to follow up on a project to build a ski resort into the jungle, using artificial snow, and write a report. Macaigne may be pudgy, but he comes off as tirelessly energetic and resilient. So are Galaric (Matthieu Amalric), a prancing, cigar-puffing supervisor in a rakish hat, and the young lady who becomes Châcaigne's companion for jungle misadventures, an intern with the Forestry Ministry known as Tarzan (Vimala Pons).

A lot of effort has gone into this satire of bureaucracy, colonialism, and commercialism, which seems like a poor cousin of the wittier, more successful Brice de Nice James Bond style satires that made a name for Jean Dujardin. The festival blurb calls this movie "something like a Jerry Lewis gag-fest meets Survivor." My guess is that while this combination may appeal to French viewers, it's unlikely to play well with non-francophone audiences. A familiarity with French politics and bureaucracy is a prerequisite. The gags may be almost simple enough to laugh off, but not to laugh with. An example: at one point Tarzan declares herself bitten by a water snake and says she has ten minutes to live, and her dream is to have sex with Marc. Both strip and have at it. After a while Marc notes they've been going for over an hour. "Well, sometimes I'm wrong about these things," Tarzan comments, and they move on. Rather than amusement, most of the time one feels mostly awe that the filmmakers and the cast were capable of so much work in such steramy, muddy conditions.

La loi du jungle/The Struggle for Survival, 99 mins., showed at festivals in Cabourg, Vienna, and Torino. French release 13 Jun 2016, AlloCiné press rating 3.6 (USers 3.0). Watched for this review on a press screener provided by the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (1-12 Mar. 2017) of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Unifrance.
Monday, March 6, 7:00pm (Q&A with Antonin Peretjatko)
Tuesday, March 7, 9:15pm (Introduction by Antonin Peretjatko)

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