Credits: Directed by Jean-Baptiste Leonetti
Synopsis: In a dystopian future, childbirth rates are low and suicides are common. A young man is saved from a similar fate and placed in a state-run orphanage and rehabilitated as an enforcer of the brutal regime.
Dystopian drama impossible to engage with.
MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: First-time feature director Jean-Baptiste Leonetti pilfers ideas from a dozen different (and better) films and repackages them as Carre Blanc, an impenetrable dystopic vision that excels at crisp imagery in the service of pretentious shallowness… and little else.
The obligatory references to such near-future standard bearers as 1984, Brazil and THX-1138 are plentiful; other cinematic nods go out to A Clockwork Orange, Alphaville, The Matrix, the 2010 adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go and Soylent Green; fellow MIFF entrant Metropia covers very similar ground with infinitely more resonance. It might be fun to create a drinking game to accompany the film, in which cinephiles of a stout constitution take a shot every time Leonetti shows his genre smarts – though there is a very real risk of passing out after the first 10 minutes.
The director’s self-penned story is an anaemic one about two fateful lovers struggling against a totalitarian corporate regime. A dark-eyed, pretty girl saves a teenage boy from committing suicide and they become wards of the state; after a long process of indoctrination they emerge as instruments of enforcement. In adulthood, Phillipe (Sami Bouajila) is a soulless breaker-of-spirits, setting physically impossible and increasingly brutal tasks for his subordinates; Marie (Julie Gayet) wants children and abhors the dictatorial society to which Phillipe contributes.
These disparate needs drive them apart before they both rage against the machine. The achingly slow narrative was frustratingly confusing as it unfolded but, in hindsight, seems entirely bland (you can throw Logan’s Run and Woody Allen’s Sleeper into that mix of antecedents, too, come to think of it). There is an subplot-of-sorts that involves a car park attendant with shiny teeth, and a creepy kid with big ears, whose blank stares into the camera reek of pseudo-Kubrickisms, but its relevance is minimal and its impact nil; the introduction of some good-ol’ fashioned ultra-violence, in the form of a waiter being kicked to death for spilling some drinks, was a welcome respite from the lumberingly morose mood of the film but, again, rather pointless.
Easily the toughest to endure feature of MIFF 2012, this mercifully short yet interminable exercise in chilly atmospherics will ensure Leonetti works for years in the advertising industry; his penchant for sleek lines, obtuse angles and long silences will suit European car commercials and finance sector spruiking just perfectly. With about as much worthwhile plotting in Carre Blanc as there is in a short-form sales pitch, the transition back to his agency roots should be smooth.
At the late-night screening SBS attended, some patrons found relatable beats within Leonetti’s determinedly abstract cross-cutting between over-stylised scenarios; there was the usual smattering of polite applause when the lights went up, the kind that festival audiences seem compelled to give. But walkouts were plenty, too, and often far less polite in their thoughts on the film. One learned colleague pointed out that Carre Blanc is exactly the sort of ‘arty festival film’ being mocked in MIFF’s own ‘German auteurs’ ad campaign (experiencing its own backlash from some very unamused MIFF patrons).
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