21 November 2021

Robert Guédiguian's Dieu vomit les tiédes (1989)

Under different names to the previous Ki lo sa ?, which ended in all four spiritually lost characters being poisoned, Dieu vomit les tiédes shows us the same actors – Jean-Pierre Darroussin (Cochise), Ariane Ascaride (Tirelire), Gérard Meylan (Frisé) and Pierre Banderet (Quatre-Œil). This film is set in Martigues as opposed to the usual L'Estqaue/Riaux, and we see a great deal of the Viaduc de Caronte. Cochise is a successful writer in Paris, although he tells his editor at the beginning of the film that he's not finishing his work on the French Revolution, people no longer give a shit, and he promptly leaves in a drunken state, leaves his wife too and returns to his childhood home where he made a blood pact with the other three main characters. But like him, things have changed. Tirelire works in a restaurant and jollies the folk up in a home with her songs and starts up a relationship up with Cochise, who's staying with his mother who treats him like a long-lost child. Quatre-Œil is an editor for a small circulation paper and also seems to have lost his ideals as a child. But Frisé, whose hair is now straight, leads a kind of bohemian existence living in a shack by the viaduct, painting it repeatedly and giving the local kids things to do like play table tennis or a musical instrument, but shoos them all away when he finds a syringe on one of them: post-industrial life doesn't have the same spirit as when he was young, there's more despair and indifference, a general lack of working-class solidarity.

And what working class? In Robert Guédiguian : cinéaste (2013), Christophe Kantcheff points to Gilbert (Gérard Meylan) showing the very first image of Guédigian's, one of the last working-class heroes as the cement factories are closing and with them a whole way of life. Joseph Mai, in his book Robert Guédiguian (2017) in Manchester Unversity Press's French Film Directors series, tells us that Philip Anderson, in an article in The Australian Journal of French Studies, has traced a background television sequence to a quotation from Pasolini's 'Genocide', first published as an article in his newspaper column for Corriere della Sera between 1972 and 1975 and collected in a volume as Scritti corsari (1975). The 'genocide' is of the working class by the bourgeoisie, who have now found far more subtle methods of assimilation than direct violence, such as television. This made me wonder why no one ever mentions Marcuse these days, a man who spoke a great deal about the way capitalism absorbs its discontents. Things are fractured, and the bi-centential festivities of the French revolution seem lukewarm, and the presence of the extreme right-wing now is menacing.

Then drownings happen, bodies washed up: there's a usurer, a pimp, a fascist, and so on. Frisé confesses towards the end that he's responsible for this: he can escape with impunity, they deserved it. Cochise thinks he's mad, and the film ends with the dead Frisé lying across Cochise, who can't extricate himself. Realistically improbable, but symbolically significant in that Cochise is stuck mentally, having no place ot move.

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