A band of mid-18th century outsiders roams the verdant Gallic countryside while trying to foment a revolt through chants and unlawful behavior in "Smugglers' Songs."
A band of mid-18th-century outsiders roams the verdant Gallic countryside while trying to foment a revolt through chants and unlawful behavior in “Smugglers’ Songs,” the fourth feature and first period pic from thesp-helmer Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche (“Adhen”). Set after the death of the group’s famous, real-life leader, Louis Mandrin, and before the French Revolution (that would come about because of the sentiments shown in an embryonic state here), this small-scale and meandering story is stranded in a temporal no-man’s land that feels more picaresque than overtly political. “Songs” could play locally and at indie fests.The period just after the future folk hero’s 1755 execution is invoked primarily through costumes — no production designer’s credited; most locations are outdoors — though dialogue sounds contemporary. Overall effect is as motley as Mandrin’s crew, which is mainly composed of Ameur-Zaimeche regulars, including himself as a traveling merchant. Thesp-director Jacques Nolot is best-in-show as a nobleman sympathetic to the group’s anti-establishment cause. Like Serge Bozon’s “La France,” which cast a similarly offbeat and musical eye toward French history, pic won the prestigious Jean Vigo prize for “independence of spirit.”