Upbeat docu makes a swell change of pace from the usual downers about institutionalized head-cases. Pic looks at one progressive asylum in the French countryside, where inmates and teachers mount an annual play with original music. It’s no “Marat/Sade,” but “Every Little Thing” is a sophisticated entertainment in its own straightforward way. Some arthouse life is indicated and, with all the Euroweb money behind it, it’s obviously going to play like crazy for global pubcasters.
French helmer Nicolas Philibert is clearly a follower of the Frederick Wiseman approach to documaking, basically “Shoot everything and get out of the way.” Having already applied his non-narrated touch, with elan, to “Louvre City” and “In the Land of the Dead,” Philibert here moves into La Borde psychiatric clinic, a bucolic French villa in the Loire Valley, where many long-term patients — both congenitally retarded and emotionally disturbed — are rehearsing their midsummer fete for family and friends.
The play, like the pic, is no bubble-gum time-waster: it’s a Polish absurdist comedy from the mid-’60s, Witold Gombrowicz’s “Operetta,” and the patients dig into its text and music with the vigor and anxiety of any serious thesps. Some of the songs are remarkable, and so is the footage of everyday life. It’s often hard to tell the staff from the residents and, in the end, what’s really interesting comes down to personalities, not disorders.
Lensing and editing are rough, but they get the job done, and there are no dud stretches. Pic may not have the easy hooks of Philibert’s earlier docus, but his track record could get this sunny “Thing” a bit further afield than the usual foreign docu.