Call it the new avant-garde, or neo-surrealism, the puzzling yet consistently engaging “No Rest for the Brave” represents, at the very least, a striking first full-length feature for writer-director Alain Guiraudie (after sub-60 minute pics “Sunshine for the Poor” and “That Old Dream That Moves”). “No Rest,” packed with visual gags but lacking (deliberately) a plot-line that makes any kind of rational sense, pic will pose a marketing challenge, but could well be embraced for its sheer wackiness and unconventionality. It will probably crop up at fests later this summer.
Set in a rural community, pic begins with a lengthy conversation in a bar between two friends, Igor (Thomas Blanchard) and Basile (Thomas Suire). Basile seems strung-out, he raves on about someone or something called Faftao-Laoupo that he seems to have encountered in his dreams, and seems convinced that, if he sleeps again, he will die. Igor is understandably puzzled by his friend’s lengthy, semi-incoherent ramblings, and Basile walks out in disgust. Later, Igor goes to his friend’s village to see how he’s doing, but Basile’s mother complains she hasn’t seen him in ages.
When Igor hears there’s been a massacre in the village, and that 20 people have been shot dead, he goes to investigate. He teams with a journalist, but, as they walk through the deserted village at night, Basile shows up with a rifle and kills them both.
After this rather surprising development, the film switches gears and introduces a whole new set of characters who hang out at the bar run by Dede (Jean-Claude Baudracco). Here we find Basile again, now called Hector, a strange guy who lives with, and sleeps with, a much older man and who is involved in various weird adventures involving a couple of gangsters and a fugitive called Johnny Got (Laurent Soffiati). The increasingly hard-to-follow plot seems to involve drug dealing and revenge, but by now the viewer is likely to be very confused as to the time-frame and the relationship of these scenes to the opening sequences.
Comprehension remains elusive, but the writer-director’s sense of the absurd ensures the film remains watchable even when it’s unfathomable.
In one hilarious scene, Basile gets into a brightly painted light plane and roars up an airstrip. But he never takes off, and it seems this was just a way of transporting himself from A to B. Further, the towns in the district have been given surreal names based on real cities (like Buenauzeres, Glasgaud and Riaux De Janerrot), and just about all the characters behave in the most unconventional ways.
The treatment of this oddity is light, and direction bright and breezy, the ensemble perfs engaging and the location camerawork first class. It’s a film that’s difficult to categorize, but Guiraudie is clearly a talent who should be nurtured and who could well come up with interesting work in the future.