The Bare Necessity (Perdrix, France, 2019)

Channeling Wes Anderson. Aaaaaagh!

I probably shouldn’t be blogging about this film as its self-satisfied quirkiness channels Wes Anderson whose films, like his namesake’s P.T.’s, I don’t appreciate. Swan Arlaud plays a gendarmerie captain of a small town in the Vosges whose settled lifestyle, with his brother, niece and mother, is a cover for stifling boredom. Into his world lands Maud Wyler’s Juliette (Arlaud is Pierrot): Juliette the girl who inadvertently transforms the film’s ‘Romeo’ who – hence Pierrot – is a clown (because of his cloistered life).

Pierrot’s gendarmerie are a fairly inept and lazy group who are trying to deal with a nudist ‘terrorist’ group who steal things they think we don’t need. The ‘inciting incident’ is the theft of Juliette’s car thus becalming her in the town.

It’s writer-director Erwan le Duc’s first film and suffers for using the mysterious woman as a character who will save our good-hearted hero. Juliette’s backstory is somewhat obscure. There’s a subplot involving one of Pierrot’s troubled lieutenants who declares his love for Pierrot but this seems to happen only to fill time (and be quirky) rather than add to the narrative. Similarly, a World War II enactment is going on and the potential for satire appears: the only black person in the gendarmerie finds himself disturbed by the alacrity those playing the Nazis grasp their role. Only to be immediately lost as it’s forgotten the moment it’s mentioned.

Wasted amongst all is is Fanny Ardant as Thérèse, the family’s mum who has a Lonely Hearts radio show that only her sons listen to and phone in pretending to be someone else to keep her happy. It seems to me we have ordinary (and quirky) people who are not normally represented on screen, which is good, but then, the film suggests, we should laugh at them. We’re meant to side with the niece who fakes an application to college in order, understandably, to get away from the ‘madness’. Why are people who are different meant to be funny?

I’ve now seen all the films in the festival and three out of 12 disappointed; that’s not a bad ratio. Incidentally, Perdrix is ‘partridge’ in French; so it’s the Partridge Family without David Cassidy (reference for the 50+s only).

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