Sponsor

New Release Review - P'TIT QUINQUIN

A small Northern French town is plagued by a rapid succession of grisly killings.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Bruno Dumont

Starring: Alane Delhaye, Lucy Caron, Bernard Pruvost, Philippe Jore, Philippe Peuvion, Lisa Hartmann




"We're left wondering if Dumont's intent is for us to laugh at or with his characters, but it all plays out like a Punch & Judy show hijacked by the sort of kid who gets pleasure pulling the wings off flies. Dumont is like the cat who insists on leaving dead rats on your doorstep; it's likely a gesture of affection, but it's no fun disposing of the carcass."



Originally broadcast in 2014 on French TV in four parts, the divisive Bruno Dumont's latest work is being released theatrically outside France as one long bladder-busting 200 minute feature. If you're familiar with the work of the French auteur, this will either be an exciting or terrifying prospect. Given recent terrorist activity in France, it's a drama that feels disturbingly prophetic, and one that no French TV network would likely green light today.
Set in a small town on the Northern French coast in a few short days around Bastille Day, P'tit Quinquin is the latest post Twin Peaks TV drama to open with the discovery of a body. Here, the corpse is found stuffed inside a dead cow. Leading the investigation is the aging Captain Van Der Weyden (Bernard Pruvost), aided by his oft-puzzled partner Carpentier (Philippe Jore). It's not long before a second corpse turns up in similar circumstances, and the bodies quickly begin to pile up.
Meanwhile, the title character (Alane Delhaye) is a mischievous tyke who roams the town with his girlfriend Eve (Lucy Caron) and his grubby young mates. Think of the Goonies, if they were a loathsome bunch of bigots and homophobes. Quinquin looks like a childhood photo of a serial killer, but nobody would suggest he seemed like such a nice boy were he to embark on a murderous rampage.
For the most part, P'tit Quinquin plays as black comedy, often applying broad strokes in its quest for chortles. In this regard it's unlike anything you might expect from Dumont, but visually it's unmistakably his work. Dumont seems to grow his actors in a secret lab. You rarely see people walking the streets with faces like those of Dumont's male actors, who usually share bone structure with Cro-magnon man, a stark contrast to the unconventionally angelic females of his films. P'tit Quinquin features possibly the most unorthodox cast to ever appear in a major TV production.
Dumont's films always leave me questioning his position on his characters - does he love or despise them - and Quinquin provides no further clues. Van Der Weyden is a loveable schlepp, but Quinquin is a horrible little oik, a product of an insular and bigoted society. After suffering racist abuse at the hands of both Quinquin and his friends, and a teenage girl, a young immigrant begins to repeat "Allahu Akbar" like a mantra before taking to a vantage point with a rifle in hand. Dumont seems to be at once critical of both religion and the bigotry of his rural bumpkins, but as with his 2009 Hadewijch, his attack on the religious comes off as thinly disguised Islamophobia. The idea that a Muslim will immediately become a would-be spree killer upon being racially abused is as offensive as anything that comes out of the mouth of the title character. Contrast this with the movie's most joyous moment, which tellingly occurs in a Catholic church, and it seems Dumont may share some of the views of the inhabitants of his milieu.
Much of the comedy simply doesn't work, and becomes grating through repetition. A scene involving a young man with Down's Syndrome is one of the most obnoxiously cruel gags you're likely to see. Again, we're left wondering if Dumont's intent is for us to laugh at or with his characters, but it all plays out like a Punch & Judy show hijacked by the sort of kid who gets pleasure pulling the wings off flies. Dumont is like the cat who insists on leaving dead rats on your doorstep; it's likely a gesture of affection, but it's no fun disposing of the carcass.



discussion by