Endangered Species: “You’re not going to recognise me”
by Fabien Lemercier
- VENICE 2017: Solitude and estrangement in marital and parent-child relations are portrayed through three fragmented tales fiercely intertwined by Gilles Bourdos
The new movie by Gilles Bourdos, Endangered Species [+see also:
film profile], has been unveiled in the Orizzonti section of the 74th Venice Film Festival. At its core, the feature lays bare the painful aspects of a spider’s web of emotional ties, and the waves of suffering and lack of understanding that are made all the more acute when they touch the most sensitive nerves between husbands and wives, fathers and daughters, and sons and mothers. This brutal emotional strip tease kicks off at breakneck speed with a fantastic opening scene in which Joséphine (Alice Isaaz) and Tomasz (Vincent Rottiers), a young married couple celebrating their union in an extremely festive, unbridled and alcohol-fuelled fashion, ensconce themselves in the bedroom of a luxury hotel, where their romantic tomfoolery quickly turns sour and the tears start flowing after Tomasz becomes aggressive, jealous and faintly threatening (“Your dickhead dad! And why does your mum hate me?”). This noxious atmosphere pervades the entire film and evolves through three interwoven stories adapted by the director and Michel Spinosa from a collection of short stories by US author Richard Bausch.
After this supremely hard-hitting introduction and a year-long ellipsis, we are introduced to the film’s second central theme: Vincent (Eric Elmosnino), a father who has to admit to his 25-year-old daughter (Alice de Lencquesaing) that he and her mother are splitting up; he also learns, much to his annoyance, that his offspring is living with and pregnant by a 63-year-old man. And Vincent will soon cross paths with the aforementioned young couple: Joséphine is now a woman who is regularly beaten by Tomasz, a fact that the young woman’s parents (Grégory Gadebois and Suzanne Clément) suspect, given that she has broken off all ties with them, and so they try to intervene (through conversation, trips to the police, intimidation and even going so far as to contemplate some extreme measures...). This feeling of helplessness is carried over into the third strand of the movie, focusing on Anthony (Damien Chapelle), a shy young intellectual on a complicated quest for love, who must take care of his manic-depressive mother (Brigitte Catillon) after her husband has walked out on her. And all of these ingredients form a tangled mesh of pretty hopeless solitude connected, at the very least, on a narrative level, set in the pallid atmosphere of a world falling apart amidst the resplendent setting of Nice and the Côte d'Azur.
Who are those closest to us, really? Should we interfere for the best in their private lives, and if so, how? Can kindness and dialogue prevail over reluctance, cowardice and violence? How do we find the inner strength to run from those who hurt us, or to accept that which must escape us? Devised as a kind of fragmentation grenade, Endangered Species plumbs the depths of this existentialist swamp, but does not get bogged down, thanks to the talent of its performers and the visual outlook of its director (who has a great knack for finding interesting settings), aided to a great degree by the exceptional work of Taiwanese DoP Mark Lee Ping-Bing. Nevertheless, the choice to have three stories feeding the subject matter of the feature is debatable, as it amplifies the “depressive” nature of the film as a whole; at the same time, the movie does not take the opportunity to dissect some intense situations that would perhaps have warranted a more in-depth exploration.
(Translated from French)
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