review by Diablo Joe
Some films telegraph what they are from the very beginning. They are rides precisely as the sign at the gate promises. Others dance about a bit, fooling you, perhaps, into thinking you've gotten on a lovely merry-go-round before plummeting you into the death-grip-inducing plunge of a rollercoaster. Others guide you to your carousel horse, nose-dive you into hell, and then toss you out at the end in a completely different amusement park altogether. That's how it is with Jean-Christophe Meurisse's darkly comic, often disturbing "Bloody Oranges."
"Bloody Oranges" is essentially three stories, loosely linked vis a vis Alexandre, a French barrister who acts as a bit of a one-person Greek chorus in function. Alexandre's parents, Oliver and Laurence, are a senior couple deeply in debt who've pinned their chances of keeping their home upon winning a sock-hop-style rock and roll dance contest where the grand prize is a new, expensive SUV. Stéphane is the French Minister of Finance struggling to keep his financial indiscretions from destroying the façade of idyllic family life. And lastly, Louise is a 16-year-old girl intent on losing her virginity to the boy of her dreams.
If none of this sounds like the making of a horror film, well, Meurisse is here to prove you wrong. Without trying to spoil anything more than is necessary, the film takes a sharply dark detour into depraved and disturbing territory. When and how this occurs is something best left to experience as you watch the movie. However, almost all bets are off once he takes the audience there.
"Blood Oranges" will likely sharply divide audiences into three camps: those who abhor it for the qualities just mentioned, those who abhor it for the protracted, disparate, and often mundane set pieces that make up large sections of the film, and those who love it for all that and more. In many ways, Meurisse's filmmaking style comes off as the unholy bastard child of Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino. There are echoes of the former in the structured formality of many of the director's pictorial compositions. The film is filled with bold uses of color and brightly lit set pieces that are visually stunning. Then combine this with vast stretches of rapid-fire verbal interplay, puns, and oddball minutiae (courtesy of a script by Meurisse, along with Yohann Gloaguen and Amélie Philippe) that could rival any debate on the true meaning of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" for WTF dialogue. And, of course, there's the unblinking mayhem that punctuates the film.
It's a formula that isn't a formula at all. It's incredible that it all works as well as it does. But it DOES mesh somehow. Meurisse infuses "Bloody Oranges" with absurdity, black humor, savagery, and bittersweet pathos that never seems out of place. The director owes a lot of credit to his cast. To a one, this ensemble of players gives their roles everything they've got. Coincidentally, the face most possibly familiar to US audiences from his supporting role in "The French Dispatch" will be Alexandre Steiger, playing the lawyer whose world touches each of the stories.
"Bloody Oranges" is not a film that will please a broad audience. It's too idiosyncratic, oddball, and dark. But it is well made and highly original. The one genuine fault that befalls Meurisse's picture is that, in the assemblage of all these elements, the one thing that gets lost is its thematic intent. That is, if it was ever the director's intent to present one.
Maybe that will become the topic for a long, fierce verbal spar in Jean-Christophe Meurisse's next picture.
This devil of a reviewer gives “Bloody Oranges” 3.5 out of 5 imps
Lilith Grasmug interview:
Sorry, commenting is currently disabled.