Bloody Oranges


Reviewed by: Antoni Konieczny

Bloody Oranges
"Bloody Oranges is condemned to straddle between two half-baked tones." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Pondering Jean-Christophe Meurisse’s Bloody Oranges kindled a somewhat unexpected association in my mind. The opening minutes, and the following deviation from the tone they set, made me think of Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods. A strange comparison indeed, but not entirely unfounded. Both introductory sequences defy the expectations about the respective features - that of a disturbing dark comedy and a run-of-the-mill slasher. In both cases, prolonged and talky openings act as preludes to mayhem. You would certainly be reading a more elaborate analogy were Bloody Oranges as subversive and effortlessly witty as Goddard’s debut.

Meurisse's film assumes a fragmented format, following, among others, a pair of seniors (Lorella Cravotta and Olivier Saladin) hoping to counter their debts by winning a dancing contest, an insecure lawyer who happens to be their son (Alexandre Steiger), a teenager readying herself to lose her virginity (Lilith Grasmug), a corrupt finance secretary (Christophe Paou), and an unhinged pervert (Fred Blin), who also owns a large pig (not plot-relevant). It’s a mosaic that encompasses tragic and pitiful characters just as well as awful though altogether irredeemable ones. The script, co-written by three writers, makes a welcome effort to have their respective plots connect as motivated by the characters’ blood ties, or, well, literal bloodshed.

“Always be borderline indecent. (...) Flirt with indecency.” - preaches one of the film’s secondary characters (Denis Podalydes). It’s one of a few lines in the film that border on the breaking of the fourth wall. This particular quotation also happens to be telling of the film’s aspirations and where it fails to live by them. The relatively quiet, populated with cynical exchanges, first half, comes across as restrained and evasive of its provocative potential. The second, on the other hand, filled with upsetting juxtapositions and the shocks the taglines promised, appears to have abandoned its flirtatious objectives for a wrecking ball. As such, unlike the same year's fully-committed-to-its-premise Mother Schmuckers, Bloody Oranges is condemned to straddle between two half-baked tones.

If I found fault with the film's tone and structure, the leading performances from Lorella Cravotta and Olivier Saladin, persuasive and marked by unspoken emotions - hopeful to wretched - equip the journey with appealing layers. Meurisse also shines when executing the lengthier conversion (tackling everything and nothing all at once - you know the type) sequences wherein the camera spins and meanders across the screen, while the characters heat one another up.

There is a theatrical quality to the way these moments are staged, a clear indication of the director’s stage background, and they make one wish that the more realised and satisfying parts added up into as triumphant a whole.

Reviewed on: 12 Apr 2022
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Bloody Oranges packshot
A retired couple entering a dance contest, a corrupt politician, a girl eager to lose her virginity, and a young lawyer obsessed with social status - a seemingly benign look into these daily lives goes haywire in this shocking black comedy.
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Director: Jean-Christophe Meurisse

Writer: Yohann Gloaguen, Jean-Christophe Meurisse, Amélie Philippe

Starring: Lorella Cravotta, Olivier Saladin, Christophe Paou, Alexandre Steiger, Lilith Grasmug, Fred Blin, Denis Podalydes

Year: 2021

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: France

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