Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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GILLES BOURDOS: ENDANGERED SPECIES/LES ESPÈCES MENACÉES (2017)- RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA 2018

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VINCENT ROTTIERS AND ALICE ISAAZ IN ENDANGERED SPECIES

Relationships, good and bad

It may seem callous to find fun in a series of personal disasters, but it may be the only way to survive a movie like Gilles Bourdos' Endangered Species/Espèces menacés.

The director of the arthouse bonbon Renoir tries something more ambitious in this, one where he seems to have been injected with a dose of Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia. This omnibus mashup of three Richard Bausch short stories doesn't have that movie's emotional resonance and depth of characterization, or for that matter its narrative complexity. But it's a rip-snorting, wild collection of somewhat intertwining storylines that keeps you watching, jaw dropped.

We begin with a wedding night that goes memorably wrong. The young husband Tomas (Vincent Rottiers), who turns out to be a tree-trimmer, is covered with tattoos that make him look like a gangster. His behavior is strangely menacing and unfriendly. The bride Josephine (Alice Isaaz) is troubled. But she will turn out to be trapped in a hopeless addiction to a violent, abusive relationship. Rottiers is masterful at depicting a kind of madness that is more threatening because of his cleancut, mild appearance. Mélanie's parents will clash over this, and her father will pursue justice in his own way that takes us into thriller-horror territory.

We also have: a mad woman, perhaps driven bonkers by her husband's disloyalty whose tall, virginal, Ph.D student son who juggles may be a bit mad too. There is Mélanie (Alice de Lencquesaing), a 23-year-old woman who enrages her father Vincent (Eric Elmosnino) with her telephone announcement that she's marrying Yann Peterson (Carlo Brandt), a professor, a man of 63, 18 years older than him, by whom she is pregnant. Josephine, the menaced young bride, turns out to be Vincent's new neighbor, and the virginal young Ph.D. student turns out to be Yann Peterson's advisee. Et voilà! It all makes sense, doesn't it?

Hollywood Reporter's Boyd van Hoeij, writing from the film's debut at Venice, describes the film's storyline, structure, and strong and weak points in more detail.

This is a film of virtuoso skill, both in the editing - we can follow all the plotlines clearly - and in the acting. It may arguably turn reality TV plotlines into arias, as Magnolia certainly does. But it reads as a trick. Its showing off amuses rather than moves. It's a game well played. No more. But that's plenty on some days.

Endangered Species/Espèces menacés, 115 mins., debuted at Venice Sept. 2017; also shown at Helsinki and Taipei festivals, and opened in France 27 Sept. with mixed reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.2).

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