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LI'L QUINQUIN is such an eccentric anomaly, defies a uniform cinematic narrative but also a wayward manipulator
Hailed by CAHIERS DU CINÉMA as the No.1 film of the year innately has a double-edged effect on any film, since this prestige not only auspiciously attracts attention from art-house frequenters, but spontaneously elicits higher expectation as well, so that fewer can break the jinx, either is Dumont's 200-minute rural tale, distributed as a four-episode mini-series originally, now arrives the theatrical version for a binge-watch.
Actually it is only my second Dumont entry after FLANDERS (2006, 5/10), years before I grow the habit of writing reviews, so I cannot recall why that film had failed to encourage me to watch more of his works. Through these years, my first response towards each Dumont's film perpetually includes some resistance, maybe it is the grimness of the nature of his subject matters, and hopefully the situation can ameliorate after this one.
LI'L QUINQUIN is the pet name of a schoolboy (Delhaye), who starts his vacation in a small seaside town, where his family runs a farm. Back to conduct an entire non-professional cast (after his collaboration with Juliette Binoche in CAMILLE CLAUDEL 1915, 2013), one unique characteristic of the film is its cast, everyone possesses their singularity in their miens or gestures, sometimes even idiosyncratic (for example, the two priests who operate the funeral ceremony, amateurishly laugh up their sleeves during the procession as if it is a reel for outtake), sometimes it feels tedious (one must endure the God-awful singing of CAUSE I KNEW not once but twice, to the extent it has successfully stuck in one's mind) but there is truly self-revealing honesty one finds charming, each character very core to its region, his identity and never try to overact apart from what they are asked to do.
Delhaye is a harelipped blond, mischievous, feisty, and boredom propels him to perambulate on his bicycle cross the picturesque terrain with his gang, and his petit amie Eve (Caron). Then a string of murders occur in some rather weird executions - dismembered bodies found inside dead cows, to the theory that a mad cow turns into carnivore and eats human bodies. While victims' number is growing, the two detectives, Captain Van der Weyden (Pruvost) and his partner Lieut. Carpentier (Jore), barely register any wisdom in solving the mystery or saving the potential suspects from being slaughtered apart from their passive routine investigation, and if you expect a thrilling whodunit, forget it, the ending can be overwhelming frustrating.
Characteristic antics again hog the main stage, Captain's uncontrollable face-tic and eyes-blinking has the ever protruding presence to achieve the curve from being bizarre, to annoying, to benumbing and finally becoming habitual thanks to the length. Carpentier erratically shows off his 2-wheels driving stunt apart from his usual bull-in-a-china-shop skill.
Dumont slyly tricks audience into the police procedural, and first-time viewers will naively think a last-minute revelation will culminate the film in a big bang! Time is ticking, after numerous detours, an overlong parade ceremony, an interlude dedicated to a tragedy of a black immigrant cannot be more topic now and among others. When the fifth victim surfaces, one's patience is running out of steam. After hinting the potential culprit, the film ends abruptly and leaves audience mumbling WTF!
The film fully embraces its idiotic characters without any tongue-in-cheek references, and in fact it more excels in as an ethnographic comedy with some sublime cinematography. But its length is the main drawback for a one-time activity, Dumont's dedication towards the rural territory earns him indulgence to make LI'L QUINQUIN such an eccentric anomaly, defies a uniform cinematic narrative but also a wayward manipulator, one should respect his effort albeit it never reach the maturity which can be sweepingly cherished by an international range of spectators.
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