Murder is a laughing matter, at least initially, in "Land of Madness."

Murder is a laughing matter, at least initially, in “Land of Madness,” a deadpan recitation of the multiple homicides that have occurred around France’s sparsely populated Southern Alps. Prolific New Wave vet Luc Moullet, himself a native of the region, mounts an unapologetically flimsy argument about the dangers of small-town isolation, but his mordantly funny commentary only occasionally enlivens what is finally an over-repetitive catalog of atrocities — though presented with such dry matter-of-factness that fest and arthouse auds will be struck by the absurdity rather than the horror of this grisly rural phenomenon.

“I’m not a very normal person,” Moullet declares with typical drollery at the beginning of this often hilarious docu, in which he and various inhabitants recall the appalling crimes — including shooting, stabbing, immolation and dismemberment — that have been committed in their midst over the past century. Some were premeditated; all are inexplicable. Moullet’s analysis is decidedly unscientific: His list of potential causes includes lingering post-Chernobyl radiation, goiter, religious cults and the loneliness that sets in when your nearest neighbor is miles away. Scenic lensing of valleys and villages aside, pic won’t do much for local tourism.

Land of Madness

France

Production

A Les Films d'Ici production, with the participation of Centre National de la Cinematographie, Cinecinema, with the support of La Region Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur, in partnership with Le CNC. (International sales: Doc & Film Intl., Paris.) Produced by Richard Copans. Directed, written by Luc Moullet.

Crew

Camera (color), Pierre Stoeber; editor, Anthony Verpoort. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 20, 2009. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Luc Moullet, Heloise Mignot, Charles Drecq, Noemie Huguet, Antonietta Pizzorno Moullet, Catherine Abramson, Pierre Lacassagne, Catherine Giraud, Rene Fregni, Andre Ghio, Marie-Odile Cornet, Claude Esmieu.

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