Review: ‘After We’re Gone’

A film of such stunningly rarefied pretentiousness it almost seems like a prank, "After We're Gone" further erodes the promise shown by French filmmaker Damien Odoul in 2001's "Deep Breath." This story of a man who enlists a legit company to help him usher in death plays like stoned avant garde student theater. Ugly visuals ensure a swift burial.

A film of such stunningly rarefied pretentiousness it almost seems like a prank, “After We’re Gone” follows last year’s ponderous “Errance” to further erode the promise shown by French writer-director Damien Odoul in his arresting 2001 debut “Deep Breath.” Concocting a scenario that might have been palatable in the hands of a more intellectually playful filmmaker like Raoul Ruiz, Joao Cesar Monteiro or Jacques Rivette, this story of a man who enlists a legit company to help him usher in death plays like stoned avant garde student theater. Ugly visuals also will help ensure this mystifying project’s swift burial.

While a certain auteurist pompousness was evident in “Errance,” blocking involvement in the drama’s chronicle of slow marital disintegration, that same arrogance reaches masturbatory new heights here in a burlesque tragedy that thumbs its nose at conventional narrative.

After receiving a letter informing him of his imminent death, elderly gent Jean-Rene (Pierre Richard) dresses his simple-minded manservant (Stephane Terperaud) as a woman for a night of drinking and dancing in his otherwise unoccupied decaying chateau.

Invoking the god of ecstasy and intoxication, Jean-Rene decides to hire a professional theater company for a private performance of a play based on the myth of Dionysus. The undisciplined band arrives a month later and begins workshopping the piece with little guidance until Jean-Rene steps in on the appointed evening to stage and perform his own death.

Odoul appears as the troupe’s neurotic producer, supplying some mild amusement in scenes where he frustratedly tries to bring focus to rehearsals. And Anna Mouglalis cuts a graceful figure as the play’s flighty muse. But for the most part, the cast — including veteran Richard — is stuck with a meaningless succession of absurdist antics and oafish knockabout comedy.

The underlit DV feature’s visual poverty is underlined by 35mm blowup, and the constant bursts of piano music only make this archly theatrical nonsense more irritating.

After We're Gone

Directors Fortnight / France

Production

A D.O. Films, Yo Yo production. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Executive producers, Ugo de la Charrette de la Contrie, Tristan Frachon. Directed, written by Damien Odoul.

Crew

Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Odoul, Patrick Ghiringhelli; editor, Gwenola Heaulme; music, Jean Holtzmann; production/costume designer, Odoul; sound (Dolby), Adam Wolny; assistant director, Jennifer Biget. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 18, 2004. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Jean-Rene - Pierre Richard Milena - Anna Mouglalis Yves - Damien Odoul The director - Eugene Durif Ingrid - Ingrid Astier Antoine - Antoine Lacomblez Lola - Valerie Bert Pipo - Stephane Terperaud
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