Also with: Claude Brasseur, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Patrick Bouchitey, Denise Chalem, Irene Tassembedo, Eva Darlan.
Persistent iconoclast Bertrand Blier brings his patented irreverence to the topic of immigrant-heavy suburban housing projects and the aspirations of their inhabitants in “Un Deux Trois Soleil.” Outrageous from the first frame, unsettling pic is marbled with hard truths treated in a fanciful time-hopping manner. Fests and arthouses should embrace this one.
Anouk Grinberg, who’s in her early 20s, stars winningly as Victorine, who grows up among the vacant lots and public housing of north Marseilles. Startling opening scene — a tight ‘Scope close-up of Grinberg as she sloppily eats breakfast, coached and crowded by her looming, disheveled mother (Myriam Boyer) — establishes that full-grown Grinberg is playing little Victorine at age 6 or so.
Thesp, who deploys her quirky voice and astute body language to limn Victorine from childhood to age 25 — but not in chronological order — conveys youthful joy and apprehension in “little girl” mode but has no trouble conveying no-nonsense womanhood. Victorine is a role literally written to order for Grinberg, who has been helmer’s companion since starring in his previous pic, 1990’s “Merci la Vie.”
Her cloying mom is a source of embarrassment to her, although she loves her alcoholic dad (a grizzled, touching Marcello Mastroianni), who’s so far gone on the local elixir that he can’t find his own apartment.
Blier toys with notions that will raise the hackles of the politically correct crowd. A teacher tells the gang of boys about to attack, “Don’t rape me, you idiots — I’m a consenting adult. Let’s go to my place.” After a fleshy African woman resuscitates a boy by clutching him to her naked breasts and thrusting hips, Victorine asks the healer to “be her mother” and is soon strutting her stuff in cornrows and batik.
Blier populates rooms, beds and corridors as if the Marx Brothers’ stateroom in “A Night at the Opera” were the zoning board’s model for housing. Everywhere the camera turns, there are plaintive young mouths to be fed and people of all ages in search of affection and encouragement.
Thesps are aces. Jean-Pierre Marielle and Claude Brasseur have striking cameos as well-off citizens with radically conflicting views on how to handle burglars.
When, in the final scene, Mastroianni gets a movie-cliche send-off, itbecomes clear how unencumbered by cliche are the components of Blier’s cinematic universe that went before.