24 November 2021

Robert Guédiguian's À l'attaque (2000)

This is another conte de l'Estaque. Guédiguian's film is in many ways a very different affair from his other films, and yet at the same time containing the same themes as so many of the other films: the absurdity and destruction of runaway capitalism, the strength of a small community, etc. And yet this is a crazy, impossible, almost post-modern script, a film within a film in which scenes are thrown away and recommenced at whim.

The flexibility is because in a sense we're really watching a film being made, which gives it an air of unreality: the characters are really puppets whose activities are being mapped out by two film makers: Yvan (Denis Podalydès) and Xavier (Jacques Pieller). This is to be a political film set in L'Estaque and based around Moliterno & Cie garage. And as they write the scenario various crazy ideas are thrown into the waste paper basket, such as the thought of key workers Jean-Do (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and Gigi (Gérard Maylan) being lured by sirens at the edge of a countryside road or singing words as in a Jacques Demy film but in a brothel in front of a host of scantily clad girls. And as this is a conte de l'Estaque the ending has of course to be optimistic, so we can't have Lola (Ariane Ascaride) being shot dead in the chest by the police at the end, or her father Moliterno (Jacques Boudet) shooting big boss Moreau (Pierre Banderet) through the head because he refuses to pay the family business the money it owes.

But – some twenty years after the advent of political correctness – we can still have a sex-starved Jean-Do ogling Lola and making sexist cracks all the time about how he drools over her. And when the end comes, we can have no police come to the garage as the workers hold Moreau captive until he signs the cheque for the money owing, have Lola wave it to the cheering crowd of villagers gathered below, and even have – cherry on the cake – Nells the banker (Alain Lenglet) steal the same sum not so much because he wants to save the firm as because he's in love with Lola.

And even, as the film fails to win the prize they hoped for, we have Xavier – previously puritanical about strong language – utter the last words to Yvan: 'Va te faire enculer !': 'Fuck off!' A sheer delight of a film.

No comments: