After he’s caught fingering his own sister, a teen rebels against his father’s anger by climbing on the roof and refusing to come down to earth in “Ivul.” Although it’s in French and set in southern Gaul, this latest off-the-wall item by English maverick Andrew Kotting is still very British in its eccentricity and irreverent humor. Pic is destined for only specialty outings and the smallscreen, but it was one of only a few films at this year’s Locarno fest to show genuine inventiveness rather than aridly arty posturing.
The original script was set on the island of Jura, off the coast of Scotland, and was only transposed to a rambling country house in the French Pyrenees when Euro coin came onboard. Central idea is based on Kotting’s own difficult relationship with his father when he was young, and his habit of scampering up trees to let things settle down.
Alex Ivul (trained acrobat Jacob Auzanneau) is the only boy in a family of three sisters, a spacey, tree-loving Russian father (Swiss thesp Jean-Luc Bideau) and patient young mom (Aurelia Petit). Alex is especially close to elder sis Freya (Adelaide Leroux), who’s about to go to Russia, and when she asks him to caress her nether-regions, he obliges.
Unfortunately, Papa walks in, goes postal and banishes him from his sight. In an act of petty teenage rebellion, Alex climbs onto the roof and spends the summer and winter in the trees, as the tightly knit family gradually unravels.
Kotting garnishes the loony plot with clips from old black-and-white homemovies, a weirdly eclectic musical score, a mute hulking groundskeeper called Lek (Tchili) and behavior that’s loving but stubborn. If it’s about anything, the pic is simply a sardonic take on the fragility of family structures and the need for compromise to hold them together.
As in his first feature, the 1996 road movie-cum-docu, “Gallivant,” Kotting is at his best when not constrained by too rigid a structure — his 2002 Zola adaptation, “This Filthy Earth,” being a case in point. “Ivul” has the narrative freedom of the former without the conventional demands of the latter.
Bideau is well cast as the larger-than life paterfamilias. Auzanneau has little dialogue with which to enunciate his character’s feelings, and is more of a cipher. Tech package is quirky but well assembled, largely by British key technicians.