French cinema, often caricatured as a minefield punctuated by infernal comedies and greyish social dramas, remains one of the most varied, powerful and creative in the world. After two years of picking up most of the main international distinctions, if there is indeed one area in which the French 7th Art still enjoys a great deal of room for improvement, it is that of genre cinema. Indeed, the tradition, initially very strong in our latitudes, has frayed over the decades, until it has become a foil for exhibitors who rarely leave stirring works the opportunity to find their audience. Let’s bet thatOgre won’t change much.
On paper, Arnaud Malherbe’s first feature film had everything for us to feast on with appetite. We follow a young boy and his mother, who take refuge in a small landlocked village to escape a past (and a paternal one) that we guess violent. But the hamlet that hosts them is under the control of a mysterious entity, which obviously mistakes the local kids for juicy pork chops. Chaotic family nucleus, rurality, mythology, for a bit it feels like a French copy of Stephen King.
In the middle flows a stretcher
An equation that would not displease us, if the writing managed to do something with these promising ingredients. But after only a few minutes, our hopes are shattered. It’s hard not to giggle when the character of the seductive doctor appears, a dark brunette who whispers in the ear of little Jules that he is really skinny, instantly propelling the film on the shores of self-parody and over-meaning. .
We do not know if the director and producer of the set knows the Morvan well where his story takes place, but it will be hard to believe him as his portrait of the inhabitants would make all the extras of Kaamelott pass for the friendly practitioners of quantum physics. The appearances of hunters should be a milestone, as the unfortunates seem to come froma risky hygienist campaign against inbreeding. Missteps that could be laughable, even touching, if their ridiculousness did not systematically anesthetize the immersive potential of the narration.
Ana Girardot does her best…
HUNGER FOR A BEAUTIFUL STORY
Story revisiting a matrix figure of European tales, the feature film strives to take care of its atmosphere and to offer the viewer an atmosphere worthy of the name. And in places, it is not far from achieving it. When the camera becomes one with the meticulous photography of Pénélope Pourriat, we sense the dawning of genuine concern.
So much so that during the first act of the film, when the ensemble adopts Jules’ point of view, we feel the roots of a beautiful vertigo. But the latter will remain confined to a handful of fixed shots, the device revealing itself to be much more uncertain as soon as the camera is in motion, when it is not the dialogues that ruin these premises.
The face of despair
Alas, the staging must perpetually struggle to hide, without much success, the limits of a budget that we guess modest. As soon as the action goes beyond the simple concept of exposure, that the protagonists must act, the limits of the device become terribly glaring, to the point of underlining shortcomings in terms of dramaturgy, which definitively mutilate the story. One thinks for example of this sequence, which should be a peak of anguish, where the young hero tries to escape on board a boat, before being confronted with the one he suspects of being the ogre of the title. Everything is so clumsy and patched up that you feel embarrassed long before you worry about the fate of the characters.
After which, it is the very heart of the project that stops beating, as soon as the mythological aspect of the film is affected by all these failings. For as the last act and its climax approach, we cruelly perceive all the scriptwriting shortcuts, but also the lightness of the universe summoned before our eyes. What finally to tell us Ogre of the figure that founds its plot? Not much, and even less when he shows his last card, a twist that imagines itself poetic, but sends us back to the most uncertain plans of The part of darkness.