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French film-maker Bruno Dumont’s 2014 TV series P’tit Quinquin – a bizarre knockabout black comedy-thriller-farce – was startling and almost unbelievable. Dumont was known for his icy and sometimes shocking art-house realism. There was very little modern precedent for this shift in tone, although in the US David Gordon Green had moved from Malickian poetry to stoner laughs.
But the extraordinary thing was that you could see the connection between Dumont’s tragedy and his comedy. Like his deadly serious earlier films, P’tit Quinquin was set in the stark, windswept coastal domain of Normandy, and like his searing drama L’Humanité, it featured an imbecilic provincial cop who had been entrusted with a serious murder investigation.
Now Dumont hasmade another four-part series, a sequel to Quinquin. This is a zany sci-fi mystery with a side-order of political parody, again using nonprofessionals and people with learning difficulties. The sheer gusto with which Dumont directs them just about exempts him from charges of exploitation and bad taste. It is not quite true to say that the joke – and it is one joke – is wearing thin, but it is really the same joke all over again, and the rather Kaurismäki-esque humour about drolly inscrutable migrants doesn’t quite give this the satirical status it appears to claim.
There are some broad “blackface” gags. Philippe Jore and Bernard Pruvost return as the wacky cops Carpentier and Van Der Weyden. They are gurning, twitching and gibbering as ever, and now, in their ineffably incompetent and childlike way, are on the trail of a supernatural phenomenon. Great big dollops of black gunk are falling from the heavens, giving birth to a weird floating light that settles on passersby, creating unearthly doppelgangers or “unhumans”. Our two lawmen become convinced that this alien matter has something to do with the migrants in the area, and perhaps with a sinister new populist political party.
Alane Dehaye returns as Quinquin, renamed Coincoin, a teenager taking laidback interest in proceedings. Dumont does get some outrageous laughs sometimes (although his lame borrowing of Buster Keaton’s falling wall gag didn’t add much). Carpentier keeps doing an action-movie stunt with his squad car where he drives it two-wheeled, tilted on to one side – and often ignominiously crashes it. The two hapless heroes simply crawl out, not especially embarrassed.
The keynote of the film is probably when Van Der Leyden tells a local: “What surprises me is not order but disorder.” Carpentier gently tries telling his chief he has got the cynical paradox wrong: he should have said he was surprised by order. But in his disingenuous way, poor Van Der Leyden is just telling the truth. He is surprised by disorder, and the movie pertly presents us with various coolly curated tableaux of chaos and calmly asks that we be duly surprised. The four-hour spectacle passes in a state of gentle, amused surprise.
Source: The Guardian
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