The Movie Waffler IFI French Film Festival 2019 Review - CARWASH | The Movie Waffler

IFI French Film Festival 2019 Review - CARWASH

carwash review
A pair of hoodlums imprison a car wash owner while they run his business for a month.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Claude Schmitz

Starring: Wilfrid Ameuille, Francis Soetens, Thomas Depas, Nathalie Rozanes

carwash poster

Cinema has given us numerous elaborate and ingenious criminal schemes, but few as ill thought out as the prolonged heist embarked upon by the hapless protagonists of Claude Schmitz's deadpan comedy Carwash.

Following the misguided instructions of their boss, low level Belgian hoodlums Thomas (Thomas Depas) and Francis (Francis Soetens, the most Belgian looking man I've ever seen) head to sunny France to pull off a jaw-droppingly inept crime - imprisoning car wash owner Wilfrid (Wilfrid Ameuille) in his home while they empty his business's self service coin-operated units of their takings. Their boss has told them that by the end of the month, with such good weather and so many tourists stopping by to give their vehicles a rinse, they should have easily amassed over €100,000. His calculations are way off however, with the machines taking no more than €300 a day.

carwash review

Unperturbed, thanks largely to their inability to perform simple addition, Thomas and Francis decide to make the most of their time in scenic France, inviting their trashy but improbably attractive girlfriends Hélène (Hélène Bressiant) and Lucie (Lucie Guien) along. The girls are more clued in than the lads, and immediately realise the folly of this venture, but they're happy to chill out in the idyllic setting.

[ READ MORE: IFI French Film Festival Review - Lullaby ]

Just as content is Wilfrid, who immediately takes a liking to his captors. The feeling is mutual, and the three men bond, enjoying boozy singalongs together. Wilfrid is upset when Thomas and Francis decide they should spend more time working at the car wash and enlist two local teenagers to keep watch on him.

carwash review

Carwash is the cinematic equivalent of enjoying a cold pint of Belgian beer on a lazy summer afternoon. There's an almost complete absence of such conventions as dramatic conflict and narrative thrust. Instead Schmitz simply allows us to hang out with his characters, all of whom are affable in their own way. Soetens is a particularly endearing presence, and the way he proudly displays his gargantuan beer belly tells you that this is a man who enjoys life, even if he can't master its intricacies.

[ READ MORE: IFI French Film Festival Review - Amanda ]

Shot with a largely static camera, as though the cinematographer set it up and snuck off for a quick pint himself, Carwash plays out in a series of vignettes. Its interactions between the cultured Wilfrid and his various unrefined captors are often quietly hilarious, none more so than when he teaches his stoned teenage overseers the ins and outs of tending to a garden.

carwash review

In 2017, Emmanuel Marre's short film The Summer Movie won the Prix Jean Vigo at Cannes, an award scooped by Carwash this year. Following my screening I had to immediately check if the same director was responsible for both movies, as they both share a very similar lazy atmosphere. With a combined run time of less than the average movie, perhaps some distributor will see fit to combine Marre and Schmitz's films on a double blu-ray. They would make for a relaxed yet melancholic double feature, perfect viewing after a sunny afternoon's drinking.

A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

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