Saturday 30 March 2019

French Film Festival (10) - Barrie Pattison engages with WILD BOYS (Bertrand Mandico) and DILILI A PARIS (Michel Ocelot)

A couple of square peg films in the current French Film Festival make for an interesting study. Palace don't know what to make of Bertrand Mandico's Les garçons sauvages/ The Wild Boys (2017). They shoved it into an evening for Art Lovers who deserved it and then put it into a horror double feature.

What the viewers got is something that you might have expected from someone who has just seen the Aleksey Gherman Trudno byt bogom/It's Hard to be a God and went off and told his mates, who made pop videos, they could manage that - incorrectly.

They did do a film where every surface is wet or clammy or sticky or covered with hair but that was as far as they got. Adding sex organs to rocks and plants and breasts and penises in places they shouldn't be just makes the result shuffle between naive and boring. 

There's a halfway plot aimed at the new "Me Too" audience (we can only hope they have more sense) about a group of early 20th century La Réunion Island school boys who violate their lady art teacher under the influence of a diamante covered skull called Trevor (!) and are punished by their rich parents who consign them to a Hell Ship captained by Dutch seaman Sam Louwyck. He doesn't have to bring them back. The Captain deposits the kids on a mysterious island where the grand design becomes evident.

The surprise ending is already undermined by noticing the presence of glamorous Vimala Pons and Elina Löwensohn but attention has already wandered before that becomes relevant.

Technically the piece has some interest. Shot in super-sixteen with the aperture plate noticeable, they do get a sharp image and go from monochrome to colour effectively but even here the arresting image of Louwyck's face as the rock wall is undermined by the unsteadiness of the second generation effects work. 

The game seems to be to spot how many movie influences show up in the film. Director Mandico, making his feature debut, helped by listing them out starting with Pinocchio (how dare they!) and adding in Lord of the Flies, High Wind in JamaicaQuerelle and a few more. Really you're better off counting the perversions - pack rape, bondage, emasculation, fetishism, infanticide, fellatio, cross dressing -  or are these OK now? 

Something that would do much better with the Museum Art lot is the new Dilili à Paris and that's been shuffled off to a few Weekend Matinées.

Anything by animator Michel Ocelot is an event and this film is his first since Ivan Tsarevitch et la princesse changeante  two years ago. It's disappointing that an artist of his talent hasn't achieved the status of Pixar or Miyazaki.

Ocelot has moved on from the African traditional art model of his Kirikou films and the Arabian nights and set his current offering in Paris of La Belle Époque rendered in realistic photos which carry a buzz from their familiarity. They are not however today's Paris but the pre-WW1 era of Art Nouveau, colonial expansion and elegant fashion. The stone work is fresh, the painted surfaces new and the traffic is drawn by horses.

Onto and into this Ocelot has placed his new characters centering on Kanack pre-teener Dilili (voiced by Prunelle Charles-Ambron) who leaves her protector's lavish Paris home to explore with her new friend cycle cart delivery boy Orel (Enzo Ratsito). However the villainous nose ring wearing Bad Masters are kidnapping little girls and have their eye on Dilili.

To avoid their attentions and enjoy the delights of Paris they enlist the great names of the day in an orgy of name dropping. "A tune Satie!"  and Orel dances with Chocolat. An attack by a rabid dog means rolling down the Sacré Coeur stairs to Louis Pasteur's clinic where Marie Curie is in attendance. There's time to visit Rodin's studio and meet Camille Claudel and chat with the Impressionists posed in front of their canvases - a young Picasso. Toulouse-Lautrec rides the tricycle. We share the makers' delight in having the figures from this work spring into motion in a non-stop parade that doesn't even pause when Oscar Wilde enters the frame. Sarah Bernhardt's jewels are menaced and her brusque chauffeur looks like going over to the dark side. It takes a trip in soprano Emma Calvé's swan boat to foil the heavies' submarine.

It's a letdown when the action detours to wind up the kidnap plot. Of course we've gone on a journey like this one in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris which might have influenced Ocelot but that doesn't diminish the pleasure.

There's a buzz every time we see one of the maker's unshaded figures appear on his detailed familiar-unfamiliar grounds. His ability to produce stunningly vivid colour is unique and recognising him at work in a new, even more involving environment is a pleasure I would urge on anyone - that is if you can find any showings.

I'm still trying to locate Claire Denis'High Life which is in the booklet.

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