Execrable: LOL (Laughing Out Loud)

LOL (Laughing Out Loud) (2008)
Directed by Lisa Azuelos
Written by Lisa Azuelos, Nans Delgado
Produced by Romain Le Grand, Eric Hubert
Starring Christa Théret, Sophie Marceau, Jérémy Kapone, Lou Lesage, Marion Chabassol, Émile Bertherat, Félix Moati, Louis Sommer, Adèle Choubard, Jade-Rose Parker, Warren Guetta, Jocelyn Quivrin, Alexandre Astier, Axel Kiener, Françoise Fabian, François-Xavier Bouvier, Patty Hannock

“Teenagers are people who express a burning desire to be different by dressing exactly alike.”

–Anonymous

A title clumsily calculated by a thick GenXer to appeal to mindless millennials, yet explanatorily parenthesized for every brainless boomer’s benefit — doesn’t that portend peachily? Less cynical than simple in her undertaking to create a lucrative Boum for the online generation, Azuelos’ want of vision is reflected by her unimaginative, unlikable, unfunny characters: an ornery student (Théret), her parents (Marceau, Astier), friends (Lesage, Chabassol, Choubard), sweetheart (Kapone), pedagogues (Kiener, Bouvier, Hannock), et al., who blunder through a sequence of interpersonal cliches dotted with hoary pranks, cutesy montages, gaumless raillery, witless wordplay, schlocky pop music and senselessly styled hair. Performances by an estrogenic rock band comprised of Kapone, Moati and Guetta, and a class trip to a Britain populated by superannuated stereotypes fresh from the mid-’70s are particularly exquisite, especially when precious dreck committed by the likes of Bright Eyes or unendurable Jean-Philippe Verdin assails the audience’s ears. Pinoteau’s successes in the ’80s are primarily accreditable to his intimate apprehension of youthful GenX’s personal, cultural, scholastic and sexual mores. Casting Marceau as a wink to her contemporaries, Azuelos only proves herself a rank representative of her insistently underwhelming generation in its stagnant middle age, possessing only a shallow grasp of millennials that merely, correctly characterizes their charmless conformity within a carcass composed of contretemps lifted from better flicks, sporadically tolerable only during its dullest moments.
Instead, watch La Boum, La Boum 2, The Breakfast Club or Battle Royale.

Palatable: Police

Police (1985)
Directed by Maurice Pialat
Written by Catherine Breillat, Maurice Pialat, Sylvie Pialat, Jacques Fieschi
Produced by Emmanuel Schlumberger, Daniel Toscan du Plantier
Starring Gérard Depardieu, Sophie Marceau, Richard Anconina, Jonathan Leïna, Sandrine Bonnaire, Franck Karoui, Pascale Rocard, Jacques Mathou
Depardieu registers far more of his characteristic charm than brutish menace as a gregarious, obtrusive inspector who falls as hard as concrete for the coolly opportunistic girlfriend (Marceau) of a Tunisian narcotics smuggler (Leïna) who plies a dicey, lucrative trade with his four brothers. With DP Luciano Tovoli, Pialat beautifully presents a photogenic cast from whom he elicits prime performances, especially his superstar leads and fresh, fledgling Bonnaire as a friendly fille de joie whose kindly temperament is apposed in contrast to the shrewd stratagems of Marceau’s uncaring layabout and a personable criminal lawyer (Anconina) who mixes with flics and felons alike to exploit both with unexpectedly treacherous consequences. Breillat later explored similar characters and scenarios in Dirty Like an Angel to reveal vulnerability beneath the tough superfices of interrogation and procedure that excite lovesick and callous idiosyncrasies proceeding from privation, but this collaboration with Pialat also postulates that neither French police nor the Arab criminals they pursued during the Fifth Republic’s zenith were either as detestable or reasonable as most might expect.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Dirty Like an Angel.

Palatable: Fort Saganne

Fort Saganne (1984)
Directed by Alain Corneau
Written by Louis Gardel, Henri de Turenne, Alain Corneau
Produced by Samuel Bronston, Albina du Boisrouvray
Starring Gérard Depardieu, Philippe Noiret, Roger Dumas, Michel Duchaussoy, Sophie Marceau, Catherine Deneuve, Saïd Amadis, Jean-Louis Richard
Essentially the French answer to Lean’s Lawrence, this handsomely staged and shot enactment of Louis Gardel’s novel narrates the military ascent of a peasant Legionnaire (Depardieu) whose valorous feats in the Saharan front secure regional French imperium and his reputation as a prominent jefe. His personal life’s ironically more troublous: tragedy eventuates from a strained fraternity, and his affections are divided for a politician’s spoilt and sour daughter (Marceau) and an alluring journalist (Deneuve). Depardieu’s larger than life, exuding stoic heart and heroism as the dauntless officer, which is just as well: his is the only character who’s adequately defined. Corneau accurately conveys France’s prewar zeitgeist, but wastes his stars (especially Deneuve) by pretermitting most character development in favor of decidedly shallow relationships. Philippe Sarde’s typically fine score is also mawkishly overused in ably realized yet musically overheated combat scenes that can’t compare to those unforgettably silent, such as an Arab warrior’s (Amadis) grisly amputation, or a lovesick valediction where Depardieu and Deneuve communicate more with a few expressions than the totality of their discourse. Ultimately, Saganne‘s as unsatisfying as photogenic, but its conclusion’s so poignant and production’s so immersive that less discriminating or demanding aesthetes may not have cause to care.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Lawrence of Arabia.