Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2023 10:43 pm 
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Toxic masculinity and bad blood in a film noir

The oddball Patricia Mazuy has done only a handful of features in 30 years. Her last, Paul Sanchez Is Back! was a bit of a goofy if entertaining misfire about provincial members of the French Gendarmerie. Now she has taken on a shocking male-on-female crime story, noir, procedural, and story of bad blood and toxic masculinity.

It's a slow start as the politically ambitious homicide detective Guillaume (Arieh Worthalter) inherits his father's bowling alley. Because it was dear to the man, he knows, he gives it to his illegitimate half brother Armand (Achille Reggiani). The two brothers don't like each other. A lot of the first half hour follows Armand. He remains a mystery but we see his darkness. He is virtually homeless. He hovers around young women offering them an umbrella in the heavy rain.

Then he takes the offer from Guillaume that he at first rejected. He gets management of the bowling alley, and must take their father's dark shepherd dog and his apartment, which is full of relics of wild game hunts. Hunting friends of their father haunt t the bowling alley, as if it were their club. Armand does not like them. Guillaume orders them to be humored. But he starts a flirtatious protective relationship with Xuan (Y-Lan Lucas) a young female animal rights activist whose group is at war with those hunters.

Armand casts off his hoodie and begins wearing his father's expensive snakeskin jacket. He is young, handsome, and now he is smiling and the young ladies pay attention to him. There is a seduction that ends in a disturbingly violent murder. Meanwhile Guillaume begins to head an investigation into serial murders of young women. Armand's conflict with the hunters - there are a dozen of them - and their "club" at the "bowling" heats up. Guillaume gets suspended because the serial killing investigation isn't winning and the hunters get him drunk.

As all this churns about, the film's second half is not sure whether it wants to be a procedural, Fincher style or just all hell breaking loose. It is a modern film noir with a distinctly French darkness, I suppose, with the sense of a war between men and women and on top of that a war between hunters and animal advocates. It is extremely tense and edgy - and very cinematic. It's final moments gather excitement at the cost of being rather chaotic. There's a pretty, perhaps a bit overbearing, use of red, of night light, of a sound track rife with menacing noises. The idea of post-colonial hunters as a menace to society and friend of the (passé) establishment feels new in this unhealthy context and feeds the boiling cauldron of menace and strife. This is a stronger film than her last from Mazuy and co-scripter Yves Thomas, and one that's at once classic in genre feel, contemporary, and sui generis.

Saturn Bowling/Bowling Saturne, 114 mins., premiered at Locarno Aug. 5, 2022 where it was a best film nominee and shpwed at a few other festivals. A Dark Star Pictures release, in French theaters Oct. 26, 2022; AlloCiné press rating 3.7 (74%), it was top rated by Cahiers du Cinéma and one of their editors' ten best films of the year. Achille Reggiani got several acting nominations. AlloCiné press rating 3.7 (74%). Screened for this review as part of the Mar. 2-12, 2022 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (NYC).
Sunday, March 5 at 6:30pm (Q&A with Patricia Mazuy)
Monday, March 6 at 3:45pm

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