Le grand soir or the misadventures of NOT and DEAD
by Fabien Lemercier
22/05/2012 - "The shortest path to freedom is straight ahead!" says one of the main characters in the turbulent Le grand soir [trailer], today unveiled in the Un Certain Regard section at the 65th Cannes Film Festival. The words seem to apply perfectly to Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern's ascending career path. In four features, all selected for great film festivals, this duo of anarchist libertarians has managed to impose its very personal style, one full of black humour to a backdrop of social desperation. Their latest opus confirms a path without concessions, on which they are refining their cinematographic skills but also allowing themselves a few excesses, without however deviating from what is essential: an innate sense of revolt and derision.
Building their plot around the classic dynamic of two characters that everything opposes (played with wild energy by Benoît Poelvoorde and Albert Dupontel), the two filmmakers have launched into a drastic denunciation of consumer society and its indifference to those left behind. But this social commitment is distilled with piercing irony, to the benefit of adventures not shying away from what is extravagant or provoking. NOT (Poelvoorde), who has tattooed his nickname on his forehead, is a man in his early forties who lives with his dog in the street, burps when it pleases him, begs with panache, and gets drunk on beer and concerts at night. His parents (the singer Brigitte Fontaine and composer Areski Belkacem) run a snack shop called "La Pataterie" (lit. “the potato shop”) in a commercial zone on the outskirts of a provincial town like so many others. His brother, the conformist Jean-Pierre (Dupontel) who is a salesman in a furniture shop, works there too. The scene has been set: peri-urban ugliness, a landscape of cars in roundabouts and parking lots, hypermarkets and shopping galleries, and security guards. Our two heroes, who cross paths without talking (brilliant noisy scene at the dinner table), are pole opposites. How Jean-Pierre gets cross! "These are the rules, this is the norm. I couldn’t give a toss about my brother!" But soon the salesman, who is in the middle of a divorce, will crumple under economic pressure ("You're behind on your targets. There's a crisis and some people are just not cut out to survive.” ), be fired, then make a few pathetic attempts to find another job, before finally joining his brother’s punk universe. The latter gives him a new tattoo and name (DEAD), and teaches him the ropes to survival. Then our two scoundrels decide to “spark off fires” in the commercial centre, to the great displeasure of their parents who continue to peel potatoes…
A sharp and comic portrayal of inappropriateness, Le grand soir take unforgiving stock of current economic prospects (Gérard Depardieu appears as a fortune teller who predicts that DEAD will find an unpaid internship helping people and receive an allowance for disabled adults). Stigmatising a world devoid of communication that is controlled by security cameras, where one can set fire to oneself without consumers even noticing, Delépine and Kervern brandish the flag of anarchy ("I liberate you from the yoke of employment!", they read The Coming Insurrection) without however taking themselves too seriously. Increasingly mastering their cinematic palette, they seem well set to “have fun for eternity", as we tag along.
(Translated from French)