The Strange Case Of Jacky Caillou


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Strange Case Of Jacky Caillou
"A thoughtful, offbeat film with the character of folklore."

Don’t forget to purge yourself afterwards, Jacky’s grandmother Gisèle (Edwige Blondiau) warns him after he practises his healing skills on an injured bird – otherwise all the sorrows of the world shall befall you. Gisèle is a highly respected traditional healer who works in a small house adjacent to an Alpine village but attracts visitors from far and wide. An orphan now grown to early manhood, Jacky (impressive newcomer Thomas Parigi) lives with her and, having the gift, may be drawn to a similar life, though he also loves music, collecting ambient sounds from which to construct it, and related ambitions are pulling him in the direction of the city. She doesn’t want to push him either way, just to keep him from harm – but danger comes in many forms, and isn’t always easy to anticipate.

Something dangerous seems to be stalking the area, picking off sheep at a rate sufficiently fast to cause the farmers real alarm. Then a stranger (Jean-Louis Coulloc’h) comes from the city to ask Gisèle to help his daughter, Elsa (Lou Lampros), a skinny girl with a lupine face, wild eyes and a mysterious grey patch on her back which recalls the demonic skin in 1971 classic Blood On Satan’s Claw. Spying on the healing sessions as he frequently does, Jacky is instantly drawn to her. He will end up taking over her care, convinced that he can save her – but at what cost?

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A thoughtful, offbeat film with the character of folklore, Lucas Delangle’s first venture into features is more interested in storytelling than the conventions of genre or even plot. It meanders in a way which makes it feel like truth, and its explicitly fantastic content is kept to a minimum, inviting supposition rather than delivering firm conclusions. No mechanisms are explained, no histories provided. The film doesn’t ask viewers for acceptance, nor for any kind of judgement. It simply is.

The homes of the healer and peasants are humble places. The mountain scenery is, in places, truly spectacular. To walk its narrow paths requires a real head for heights. To Jacky and his grandmother, they are just another part of life. Though this has been classed as a horror film by some critics, there’s very little violence in it, with the injuries we see never exaggerated. Though you may find yourself trembling with concern for a little lamb, Delangle is, again, interested in the power of suggestion, and is not explicit. Like Jacky, we are discovering this world through observation.

This is a quiet film but an effective one. Jacky is torn between modernity and tradition, between the farmers and the girl, between the civilised and the wild. His grandmother invokes the Virgin Mary in summoning up the power to heal, but he finds his strength in the trees. There is something deeper and older and more primitive in this place, and it is folly to think that humans can ever fully understand it. A fresh and vital piece of cinema, The Strange Case Of Jacky Caillou is likely to get Delangle some serious attention.

Reviewed on: 06 Apr 2023
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When his grandmother suddenly passes away and a young woman with a mysterious rash arrives on his doorstep, a young man tries to help her. As her condition worsens, it becomes clear that she’s afflicted with no ordinary illness. She’s transforming into something dangerous before his eyes, but he’s already in too deep to abandon her.

Director: Lucas Delangle

Writer: Lucas Delangle, Olivier Strauss

Starring: Thomas Parigi, Edwige Blondiau, Lou Lampros, Jean-Louis Coulloc'h

Year: 2022

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: France


Fantastic 2022

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