×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Les Cotelettes

Two old grouches, of diametrically opposed beliefs, verbally slug out issues of life, death, sex and the rest in "Les cotelettes," a typically provocative piece of absurdist theater from vet writer-helmer Bertrand Blier that starts intriguingly but loses its way from the midpoint on.

With:
Leonce Grison - Philippe Noiret Potier - Michel Bouquet Nacifa - Farida Rahouadj Death - Catherine Hiegel Nacifa's Husband - Hammou Graia Benedicte - Axelle Abbadie Agathe - Anne Suarez Xavier - Jerome Hardelay

Two old grouches, of diametrically opposed beliefs, verbally slug out issues of life, death, sex and the rest in “Les cotelettes,” a typically provocative piece of absurdist theater from vet writer-helmer Bertrand Blier that starts intriguingly but loses its way from the midpoint on. Despite sparky playing by Philippe Noiret and Michel Bouquet as the ornery oldsters — reprising their roles in Blier’s legit original — the script’s darts start falling way short of their targets as pic progresses. Reception at Cannes was decidedly sniffy, signaling few offshore sales and mild biz likely even in Gaul.

Though Blier’s movies have always shown an acute visual sense, especially in his use of widescreen, his scripts have been principally dialogue-driven, his characters challenging each other — and established society in general — with non-conventional ideas. In that respect, the wall-to-wall dialogue in “Les cotelettes” (literally, “The Lamb Chops”) comes as no surprise; and Blier’s facility for melding the gross and poetic, slang and literate, is still strong. What’s changed is society itself: There’s a strong sense of Blier tilting at windmills, of a ’70s/’80s provocateur trying to shock a world that is now almost unshockable.

High-concept opening is absolutely typical of Blier’s greatest works, like “Les valseuses,” “Buffet froid,” “Tenue de soiree” or “Trop belle pour toi.” Here, a seemingly upper middle-class family of three is interrupted during dinner by knocking on the apartment door. Eventually a complete stranger causing the commotion is let in. He blithely announces, “I’m here to piss you off.”As in “Tenue de soiree,” pic plunges straight into a loony, theatrical idea in which the principals start challenging each other’s complacency.

The three diners are 64-year-old Leonce (Noiret), his teen son, Xavier (Jerome Hardelay), and Leonce’s mistress, Agathe (Anne Suarez), 30. The interloper is 70-something Potier (Bouquet) who starts in on the delicate Xavier, suggesting he may be a “fag”–at which point, Agathe drags the boy into the bedroom to decide the issue one way or the other. Mixed in with all the verbal hijinks are off-center touches, such as over-insistent use of music and interior design in the apartment (neon curlicues) that seems way out of place.

Leonce, who’s just left his wife and is proud of it, is a wealthy leftist, while Potier is a penurious rightist. It’s an obvious, if slightly nuanced, juxtaposition of beliefs; but what’s surprising is that Blier’s script doesn’t dwell on the men’s politics. Pretty soon they find they have more in common than they thought — especially an attraction to Leonce’s Algerian maid, Nacifa (Farida Rahouadj), and a fascination with Death (Catherine Hiegel).

Early on, pic starts freely cutting — in the middle of conversations — between interiors in the men’s apartments, Leonce’s swank Provence villa, and several stunning, summery landscapes. There’s almost no timeline in the conventional sense: The dialogue is everything and, apart from a couple of striking visual ideas (such as Leonce’s open-air pool), it’s easy to see how the whole thing could just as easily have been set on a stage.

By the halfway point, however, even the well-turned dialogue, which is hard for non-French speakers to fully appreciate, starts punching the air. Beyond obvious subjects like sex and death, Blier seems unable to take his original idea in any meaningful direction, and the ending (featuring the Jean-Claude Gallotta dance company) is simply ludicrous instead of being outrageously ludicrous.

Cast gives its most, with little to choose between grizzled vets Noiret and Bouquet, equally adept at venomous insults and weary philosophizing. Femme roles, as often in Blier’s films, are secondary and largely stereotypical sexually. Francois Catonne’s widescreen lensing is splendidly appointed, and the running time is at least short.

Les Cotelettes

France

Production: An EuropaCorp Distribution release of an EuropaCorp/Hachette Premiere presentation of a Hachette Premiere, EuropaCorp, Plateau A, TF1 Films Prod. production, with participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: EuropaCorp, Paris.) Produced by Rene Cleitman, Luc Besson. Executive producer, Bernard Bouix. Directed, written by Bertrand Blier, based on his play.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Francois Catonne; editor, Marion Monestier; music, Hugues Le Bars, plus extracts from works by Berlioz, Liszt, Rossini, Sibelius, Kabalevsky; art director, Michele Abbe; costume designer, Christian Gasc; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Pierre Excoffier; choreographer, Jean-Claude Gallotta; assistant director, Hubert Engammare; casting, Gerard Moulevrier. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 23, 2003. Running time: 87 MIN.

With: Leonce Grison - Philippe Noiret Potier - Michel Bouquet Nacifa - Farida Rahouadj Death - Catherine Hiegel Nacifa's Husband - Hammou Graia Benedicte - Axelle Abbadie Agathe - Anne Suarez Xavier - Jerome HardelayWith: Luc Palun, Jean-Jerome Esposito, Franck de la Personne, members of the Jean-Claude Gallotta dance company.

More Film

  • 'All These Small Moments' Review

    Film Review: 'All These Small Moments'

    The magic of writer-director Melissa B. Miller Costanzo’s “All These Small Moments” can be found within the intimacy of the scenarios, the authenticity of her earnest characterizations, and the accessibility of the actors’ honest performances. In her deftly polished directorial debut, Costanzo dovetails the primary story about a teen’s coming of age with a secondary [...]

  • Bruce Tufeld Dead: Hollywood Agent and

    Hollywood Agent and Manager Bruce Tufeld Dies at 66

    Bruce Tufeld, a Hollywood agent and manager who once repped stars like Rob Lowe, Laura Dern, and Kelsey Grammer, died Tuesday in Los Angeles as a result of complications from liver cancer. He was 66. The son of respected television announcer Richard “Dick” Tufeld and Adrienne Tufeld, Bruce began his career as an assistant at ICM [...]

  • Bruce Dern

    Film News Roundup: Bruce Dern's 'The Lears' Bought by Vertical for February Release

    In today’s film news roundup, Bruce Dern’s “The Lears” and “Angels Are Made of Light” are acquired, Cold War drama “Stanley Cage” is launched and a documentary about Madonna’s early music career gets a release. ACQUISITIONS More Reviews Film Review: 'All These Small Moments' TV Review: HBO's 'Brexit' Vertical Entertainment has acquired North American rights [...]

  • Octavia Spencer Bryce Dallas Howard

    Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard to Reunite for Comedy 'Fairy Tale Ending'

    Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard will reunite for the ensemble comedy “Fairy Tale Ending.” Jim Hecht (“Ice Age: The Meltdown) and Tracy McMillan (“Marvel’s Runaways”) are writing the screenplay. More Reviews Film Review: 'All These Small Moments' TV Review: HBO's 'Brexit' Howard will also produce the Universal movie through her Nine Muses Entertainment alongside [...]

  • Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at DuArt

    Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at New York's DuArt Film Labs, Dies at 88

    Robert Smith, a longtime executive with New York’s DuArt Film Labs, died Jan. 11 in Montvale, N.J. He was 88. Smith spent some 62 years with DuArt, the film processing and post-production facility founded in 1922 in the penthouse of an automobile garage in Midtown. Smith rose to president of DuArt before retiring in 2015. [...]

  • Bird Box

    Los Angeles On-Location Feature Filming Surges 12.2% in 2018

    On-location feature filming in Greater Los Angeles expanded impressively in 2018, gaining 12.2% to 4,377 shooting days, according to FilmL.A. Production activity for feature films rose 15.5% to 1,078 shooting days during the fourth quarter, with 146 days coming from projects receiving California tax credits — including Netflix’s “Bird Box,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content