Reviewed by: Tony Sullivan

A pair of monstrous lips scarfing down potato chips - in a strange echo of The Rocky Horror Picture Show - open this little comic gem. Pitched somewhere between Jacques Tati and the joint ventures of Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali in its mission to amuse and offend. Filmed in grainy Fifties-style black and white and in an almost full-screen aspect ratio (what the DVDs like to describe as "television friendly"), giving a decidedly old-fashioned feel to the proceedings.

The hero of the piece is a deaf-mute portrayed with beguiling Frankenstein's Monster-like innocence by co-director, Gustave de Kervern. When we first meet him he is apparently employed as an animated chew-toy for the amusement of a rich fellow's Doberman guard dogs. Apparently anything Kervern is involved in has a knack of going very, very wrong and justice is seen to be done in a suitably bizarre fashion.

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Next we are introduced to two zoo employees who get their hedonistic jollies tranquilizing each other with rifle darts intended for the larger animals. As if that wasn't enough, one of the two has a penchant for wrapping himself in sticky tape (co-director Benoit Delepine). The two have devised a plan to kidnap and ransom a spoiled pet with the aid of de Kervern's muscle. It should come as no surprise when this too goes awry. Our would-be kidnapper's then resort to abducting the dog's wealthy owner, Avida.

Avida is portrayed by well-upholstered actress, Velvet, who perfectly embodies bourgeois malaise but she has her own agenda and by force of personality soon imposes it on our hapless trio, who, in their usual inept fashion try to humour her.

Surreal vignettes some funny, some disturbing, pepper the narrative. Along the way there is a suicidal bullfighter who chooses to test his skills on a Rhino and a fellow (Claude Chabrol, no less) who likes to gourmandize the zoo inhabitants. A visit to the taxidermist is a particular assault on the sensibilities, which is perhaps a pity as with that event goes any chance of reaching a wider audience.

All the zaniness leads up to a final unexpected visual coup, in colour too, that perfectly fits the nature of the film and its aspirations.

Directed with a knowing visual flair, perhaps a little tightening in the script department would help, but overall this is an enjoyably anarchic festival treat. I'm sure the directors would be appalled at the thought but with a little work they might actually have had a commercial hit on their hands.

Reviewed on: 14 May 2007
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Life in the surreal world.
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Director: Gustave de Kervern Benoît Delépine

Writer: Benoît Delépine Gustave de Kervern

Starring: Gustave de Kervern, Benoît Delépine, Velvet, Claude Chabrol.

Year: 2006

Runtime: 83 minutes

Country: France


Tribeca 2007

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