Etrange Festival
Days 4 to 8

Karate as an antidepressant, England under  Nazi ruling, Kinder surprise corpses, a 13th century castle, to crazy lovers on the run. A summary of 5 days at the Etrange Festival, with 5 movies ranked from the worse to the best.

By Michael Patin

Reading time 4 min.

The Art Of Self Defense pays the price of coming after three days of heaven in the Etrange Festival. This depressive comedy about an insecure accountant, who decides to take karate classes after being assaulted in the streets has all the tics of a Sundance movie : cold humour, grayish photography, indolent directing, constant winks at the viewer…Jesse Eisenberg is being Jesse Eisenberg (and he does it well), Imogen Poots sulks (she also does it well), and Riley Stearns is fighting with a stupid scenario (karate as a metaphor for virilism, really ?) that remains close to awkwardness without ever committing to it.

We had hopes for It Happened Here, a true rarity filmed in odd conditions and buried as soon as it was released in 1966. The audacity of the story — we are in a parallel reality where England is occupied by nazis — is not enough to hide the incomprehensible editing and the underdeveloped dramatic issues. All that is left is the magnetism of the main actress, Pauline Murray, as a nurse torn between collaboration and resistance. Chris Marker said about It Happened Here that “the only realistic movie about 39-45 is imaginary. ”. Too bad that it is also one of the most boring.

Cutt off marks Christian Alvart’s homecoming, when he had lost himself in Hollywood after the pomising Antibodies. In the horrific thriller, a forensic doctor (Moritz Bleibtreu, still at his best) find his daughter’s number inside a corpse and starts a ghastly treasure hunt with the abductor… The German director is clearly hungry and displays an uplifting energy in the first half-hour, then stumbles with the commonplaces of the genre : jump scares, explicative flash backs and inconsistent twists…Because it hesitates too much between seriousness and derision, Cut Off remains at the state of hybrid curiosity, fun and harmless.

We put Ni Dieux Ni Maîtres here, because we don’t really know what to do with Éric Cherrière’s second feature film…We admire the ambition of this slightly fantastic medieval tale, shot on location with a pretty casting — Pascal Greggory, Jerôme Le Banner, Edith Scob in one of his last performances, and the pretty redhead Jenna Thiam —and studded with choreographed battles, somewhere in between Versus and a lifesize role play game. Even the expected flaws —whispered allusions, foggy languors —participate in its singular charm, both cheap and chic, without any equivalent in French productions.

At the top, the very top, there is Adoration. We feel lucky to be here to see Fabrice du Welz (whose interview will soon be available on Somewhere\Else) back to his beloved Ardennes, becoming the director he has always wanted to be. The moment he frees himself from his habits and engraves on film a new vision, rough and modern, of magical realism (dear to Delveaux and Duvivier).  A crazy love story between two teenagers, an elegiac river movie where right and wrong, life and death, marry each other in a nature that knows no judgment. Adoration is the word.

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