Monday, June 15, 2015

Tip Top

2013, France/Belgium, directed by Serge Bozon

As was the case in his previous feature, Serge Bozon brings together unexpected elements, marrying a criminal investigation with a loopy screwball vibe and a vein of political commentary. On this occasion I'm more guarded on his success, although these elements are not all actually in opposition to one another: since the balance is always off-kilter, he's not veering wildly from one tone to another though I'm still not sure the particular and quite consistent tone is wholly suited to the material. There's a vein of quite stringent political commentary -- on Franco-Algerian relations and interactions -- that gets a lost from view at times even though I think Bozon places a good deal of value on this, simply because the comic mode distracts although in the end his point may be more about the overarching context of politico-social absurdity (in the manner of, say, Bong Joon-ho's Memories of Murder). The plot involves Isabelle Huppert and Sandrine Kiberlain investigating the investigation ("la police des police") into the death of a police informer in Lille, though Bozon is at least as interested in the behaviour of his leads, each of whom has a distinctive sexual peccadillo, which is also a matter of narrative interest. Bozon certainly has Huppert and Kiberlain go through the wringer in the service of his film -- if I hadn't seen the earlier film, I might think he had a somewhat unhealthy desire to showcase his female stars in rather humiliating scenarios -- though Huppert is more than game for what she has to do, while Kiberlain's character is quite exquisitely uncomfortable at times. The offbeat tone of the film is often underline by Bozon's visual choices: he likes to play with the setup angles so that the eyeline match is off, a very disconcerting visual trick in one early interrogation scene that helps to destabilize the entire enterprise. He does the same in La France to equally good effect -- there emphasizing the untrustworthiness of a particular character. In both films, too, he does a fair amount of tableau framing -- especially for some of the musical sequences in the earlier film -- and he also has fun in the second film with scenes filmed in cars, where the backdrop doesn't quite match the action. It's certainly quite carefully thought through on the visual level even if the ideas are a bit muddled.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States