FANTASTIC FEST 2011
By Don Simpson | September 28, 2011
Writer: Jean-Baptiste Léonetti
Starring: Sami Bouajila, Julie Gayet, Jean-Pierre Andréani, Carlos Leal, Dominique Paturel, Fejria Deliba, Valerie Bodson, Viviana Aliberti, Majid Hives, Adèle Exarchopoulos
When he was just a boy, Philippe’s (Majid Hives) mother (Fejria Deliba) took a swan dive from balcony of their nondescript cement high rise flat. Her reasoning behind doing so was that this act would toughen Philippe and prepare him for the brutal Social Darwinian world outside. Philippe is ushered off to a State-run boarding school where orphans are molded (read: conformed) into productive members of society. This is where Philippe meets his one and only friend, Marie (Adèle Exarchopoulos), in this cruel world where friendship is rapidly becoming extinct.
Years later, we find the adult Philippe (Sami Bouajila) working for the State as an interrogator/indoctrinator; he “trains” people via performance tests to become better (read: conformed) citizens. In one such test, he tells his subjects to stand up against a wall, then walk backwards. The test is like a riddle that none of Philippe’s clients seem to be able to conquer; yet the solution is so simple once it is revealed by Philippe. Another test is less simple — it entails studying how long the subjects will “willingly” electrocute themselves. Though it is never explained, it seems as though part of Philippe’s role might be to separate society’s mindless sheep from the potential herdsmen.
At some point in the past, Philippe married Marie (Julie Gayet). We can only assume that they were happy — or, more realistically speaking, content — for a while; but the present reveals an unconquerable tension between the couple. Philippe buries his feelings beneath his frigidly clinical exterior and Marie’s psyche splinters as she no longer sees any reason to exist (we sense this is partially because she is childless).
This is a cruel and emotionless world that Marie and Philippe live in; love, like anything colorful or creative, has been totally negated from existence. Those who will not conform — those who retain a desire to be creative or possess emotions — only have one escape…suicide.
Muzak is pumped like oxygen from the atmosphere of this world to lull the masses into submission. Carré Blanc also features an omnipresent Orwellian loudspeaker over which repeated recitations of Big Brother-esque propaganda promoting teen pregnancy and the moral benefits of croquet are disseminated to all. This same public address system also functions as an invisible Greek Chorus, sardonically commenting upon the on screen events.
The dystopian world (which is captured with the grace and tranquility of Andrei Tarkovsky by cinematographer David Nissen) takes place in what seems more like a parallel world rather than our future. Though seemingly non-related to our reality — therefore rendering it stripped of relevant political rhetoric — Jean-Baptiste Léonetti’s mesmerizing first feature recalls the bitingly literate social commentary of Albert Camus, Aldous Huxley and Franz Kafka…with a little Terry Gilliam (circa Brazil) thrown in for good measure. If anything, Carré Blanc represents a future that could have been imagined during the 1950s by a Western society that was scared to death of Socialism.