not Broadchurch and it’s certainly
not Gracepoint, thank heavens. Murder
will plague a provincial northern seaside village and deep secrets will be
revealed, but everyone largely takes it in stride. This is especially true of
the young troublemaking protagonist of Bruno Dumont’s Li’l Quinquin (trailer here), a four part French miniseries that
screens in its entirety as a special presentation at the 52nd NewYork Film Festival.
small but forceful Li’l Quinquin is more Napoleon than Huck Finn, but he is
sweet and gentle with his girl friend Eve. She certainly appreciates the
attention, because most of the town is focused on her teenaged sister’s
audition concert for a French reality show. At least that was the big story
around town, until a dead cow was improbably found in a remote WWII bunker. It
happened to be a mad cow, with people parts inside it. That person was Madame
LeBleu, the wife of a well to do farmer, who was having an affair with Bhiri, a
kosher butcher for the local Muslim immigrant community. He too soon turns up
dead, under similar circumstances, but he will not be the last to meet a premature end.
Van Der Weyden will investigate the crime as best he can, but it is hard to
imagine a flatfoot who inspires less confidence. A twitchy, socially dysfunctional
bumbler prone to Tourrete-like squawking, Van Der Weyden is out of his depth,
but he never passes up a chance for an annoying Colombo-like confrontation.
Naturally, Li’l Quinquin rubs him the wrong way—and the feeling is mutual.
who has seen Dumont’s last four or five films would not have thought comedy was
part of the severe auteur’s skill set, but he uncorks a genuine surprise with Li’l Quinquin. Of course, by comedy, we
mean humor that is very dark and very dry (isn’t that the best kind?),
punctuated by moments of almost slapstick absurdity. Yet, it still bears hallmarks
of Dumont’s signature style, such as the lonely windswept vistas, the striking
long takes, and the unsettling feeling that evil exists and its proximity is
the title character, Alane Delhaye is hilarious, scary as heck, and more than
half credible as a leading man. He is unusually expressive—you might even say
his expressions are bizarre, but he commands the screen. Frankly, the
film/mini-series would have been a train-wreck without him. However, Bernard
Pruvost is almost just as weirdly effective as Van Der Weyden, a veritable
bundle of tics and inappropriate comments, whose face appears to be about
ninety percent eyebrows.
its length (a mere two hundred minutes), Li’l
Quinquin is Dumont’s most accessible work, by a country mile. The vibe roughly
feels like he remade Hors Satan (his
best recent prior film) with the Little Rascals. While some heavy-handed statement
making regarding the town’s racist attitudes towards their unassimilated
immigrant population adds a bit of unnecessary clunkiness, Dumont’s
idiosyncratic humor still makes the considerable running pass quite swiftly. Highly
recommended for fans of slightly surreal mysteries in the Twin Peaks tradition, Li’l
Quinquin screens tomorrow (10/2) at the Beale, as part of this year’s NYFF.
Labels: Bruno Dumont, French Television, NYFF '14