CRITICAL / OPINION FILM – “And why the Mongolian she would not have the right to dance?”. Very quickly, without warning, “Blood Oranges” came out as the most radical French comedy of the year. Naughty without being odious, forcing people to laugh and cry until the end, Jean-Christophe Meurisse’s film plunges us into satirical and moving darkness. Great art that disturbs, and a speech of rare height.
A comic and chaotic portrait
There are four stories in Blood oranges. That of Louise – formidable Lilith Grasmug -, a young girl not really shy but who apprehends her first sexual relationship, and the story of a tax-cheating Minister of the Economy (Christophe Paou), a hilarious combination of cynicism and naivety. Finally, there is that of Laurence and Olivier (Lorella Cravotta and Olivier Saladin), an elderly and over-indebted couple who dances rock and does not want to annoy their children with a money problem, and the story of their son Alex (Alexandre Steiger ), assistant to a provocative bar tenor.
With these four main lines, which will become entangled and give rise to several events with the appearance of prestigious guests, it is a rather complete portrait of our company that offers Blood oranges. Several generations, several social backgrounds, several paths which all have in common to tend towards the monstrous. We run through the whole spectrum of laughter, up to deep yellow, we follow a thread of violence that unfolds faster and faster, to its extreme.
We first laugh heartily, because Jean-Christophe Meurisse, emeritus actor and theater director with his troupe The Dogs of Navarre, offers deeply funny and authentic situations. But we also laugh nervously, because the comedy implemented, a perfect example of black and absurd humor, plays with its own definition. Laugh, but for what? Laugh, but at what, from whom? Maybe because it’s better than crying? Blood oranges theater and situational comedy sweat, and the stretching (one could say the exhaustion) of its dialogues and its situations testifies to the will to go at the end of his remarks, where the lights of normality and decorum are extinguished. The society which is portrayed in Jean-Christophe Meurisse’s second feature film is indeed a France which rages, which is alone, which is violent, wicked, neurotic, a monstrous society.
The supreme art of length
From the first minutes of the film, we notice a form of anomaly. While the first sequence opens with a debate between the jury of a regional dance competition, and the lines of funny and sharp dialogue fuse, we note that this exchange is lengthening. It is first of all unsettling, like a metronome that would take time to settle and set the right rhythm for this comedy. Then the other sequences follow one another, mostly with the same length of time. This length is voluntary, and it would undoubtedly be more accurate to characterize it as depth. Indeed, where most comedy writers would have stopped earlier, for ease of editing or ease of narration, Jean-Christophe Meurisse insists. He insists on exhausting his argument, go to the extreme end of the situations he stages, as if to say everything once and for all.
One of the challenges of Blood oranges is thus to show head-on vengeful acts, two in particular. And the director chooses to show them to the end, with two very different staging and a relationship to the symbolic. These two sequences illustrate the two main genres of the film, that of satirical comedy and horror, always with this dark sense of the absurd and the burlesque which reminds us thatBlood oranges is also a contemporary drama, with all that this contemporary has of ultra-violent.
As The event that same year, like Issuance in its time, like ultimately all great cinema films, Blood oranges grabs the viewer in the viscera, to take him where he does not expect it. Naughty, violent, demanding, the film does not play lightly with its audience but seriously asks for its confidence and intelligence. Thus, the approach aims to exhaust the intention of the director, as the latter seeks to exhaust his viewer. But, rather than ending the point with a last darkness, at the end of a final meeting between Alex and Lilith, the percussions of Wonderful Life from Smith & Burrows arrive as energetic and life-saving heartbeats. After all that, we are still alive, and there is great hope.