×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Locarno Film Review: ‘Sheep’

Although not for everyone, this surprising prose poem on the randomness of life itself should earn fest interest and deserved cult status.

With:

David Merabet, Michael Mormentyn, Cindy Dumont, Benjamin Cordier, Emmanuel Legrand, Sebastien Legrand, Audrey Clement, Louisette Choquet, Christine Delion, Jonathan Dumont, Peggy Lemaire, Remi Clement, Anne-Marie Zannier, Marie-Jo Valette. Narrator: Marianne Pistone.

Films that truly surprise are the rarest of the rare, and while “Sheep” also perplexes, its originality and intriguing docu-style approach make it impossible to dismiss as just another arty experiment. Debuting helmers Marianne Pistone and Gilles Deroo have crafted a prose poem on the randomness of life itself, at first focusing on a young man working as a prep chef and then, quite suddenly, introducing a freak event that changes the course of the picture and steers it down unexpected paths. “Sheep” should get a boost from Locarno’s tyro film award, heralding fest interest and deserved cult status.

Sheep, or rather Mouton, is the nickname of the main character, real name Aurelien (David Merabet). Pistone and Deroo (also co-editors) begin with minimal camera movements and a precise use of alternate angles, bringing an objective sense of rationality to the start as Mouton, 17, is granted legal independence from his alcoholic mother. He works as a prep chef at a seaside restaurant in the Norman town of Courseulles-sur-Mer, easily fitting in with the diligent kitchen staff.

An odd scene early on alerts viewers that this won’t be a straightforward tale, as a group of Mouton’s friends hold him down and good-naturedly spit on his face, perhaps as some fraternal rite of passage. Otherwise, a degree of normality prevails in this part of the pic, observing Mouton and his colleagues doing their work (cleaning fish, saucing plates) in a repetitious manner, lulling audiences into a feeling of familiarity and ease. Then Audrey (Audrey Clement) arrives as the new waitress and starts dating Mouton; the camera indulges in some handheld shakiness, followed by a zoom from out of left field as Mouton sucks her nipple during foreplay.

Celebrations for the Feast of St. Anne get underway along the jetty, with townspeople behaving in an uninhibited matter reminiscent of unsettled villagers in early 1970s British films. During the late-night festivities, a man inexplicably cuts Mouton’s arm off with a chainsaw (discreetly filmed); he survives the attack but moves away to Picardy. At this point the film abruptly shifts focus and follows a few of the people within Mouton’s circle remaining in Courseulles-sur-Mer, such as twins (Emmanuel and Sebastien Legrand), kennel worker Mimi (Michael Mormentyn), and his wife, Louise (Cindy Dumont). They regret Mouton’s departure, but as is so often the case when people move away, promises to stay in touch are rarely kept.

Viewers will similarly be saddened by Mouton’s exit, even as they scratch their heads wondering where Pistone and Deroo are taking them. Yet much like life (not to mention ruminants), “Sheep” wanders down unanticipated paths, knocked off course by random acts. It’s a hard act to sustain on film, and the result certainly isn’t for everyone, but it delves beyond quirkiness to touch on the very capriciousness of existence. Events are inexplicable and perhaps free will is an illusion, making a cinema-verite style the sole means of restoring order to a messy world.

Shooting on 16mm, d.p. Eric Alirol, an early collaborator on Pistone and Deroo’s shorts, produces a satisfying graininess that harks back to an earlier generation of docu work in off-the-beaten-track places. Courseulles-sur-Mer may be a bustling town in the summer, but off-season, as seen here, it arouses a lonely melancholy that brings the few inhabitants even closer together.

Popular on Variety

Locarno Film Review: 'Sheep'

Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Filmmakers of the Present), Aug. 13, 2013. Running time: 100 MIN. Original title: "Mouton"

Production:

(France) A Boule de Suif production. Produced by Gilles Deroo.

Crew:

Directed, written, edited by Marianne Pistone, Gilles Deroo. Camera (color, 16mm), Eric Alirol; music, Bukowski, Arkan, Diskdor; production designer, Lionel Roy; sound, Jeremy Morelle, Adrien Fontaine, Remi Mencucci; assistant director, Elodie Claeys.

With:

David Merabet, Michael Mormentyn, Cindy Dumont, Benjamin Cordier, Emmanuel Legrand, Sebastien Legrand, Audrey Clement, Louisette Choquet, Christine Delion, Jonathan Dumont, Peggy Lemaire, Remi Clement, Anne-Marie Zannier, Marie-Jo Valette. Narrator: Marianne Pistone.

More Film

  • Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS:

    Disney and Tencent to Put Out New Chinese ‘Star Wars’ Story

    Disney and China’s biggest online publisher, Tencent’s China Literature, have teamed up to develop a new Chinese “Star Wars” online novel and release 40 older e-books in Chinese for the first time. In an attempt to cultivate grass-roots enthusiasm for a franchise that has not yet managed to find a strong foothold in the world’s [...]

  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

    Film Review: 'A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon'

    No asteroids are hurtling toward Earth in “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon,” though a flying frozen pizza does softly slice the top off an elderly shopper’s hairdo: That’s roughly the level of quirky peril we’re talking about in the latest outing from Aardman Animations, and as usual, the British stop-motion masters cheerfully prove that [...]

  • Slam

    Film Review: ‘Slam’

    The disappearance of a fearless female Palestinian-Australian slam poet triggers suspense and powerful social and political commentary in “Slam,” an outstanding slow-burn thriller by expat Indian filmmaker Partho Sen-Gupta (“Sunrise”). Starring Palestinian actor Adam Bakri (“Omar,” “Official Secrets”) as the missing woman’s conflicted brother, and leading Aussie performer Rachael Blake as a troubled cop, Opening [...]

  • Igo Kantor

    Igo Kantor, Producer and Post-Production Executive, Dies at 89

    Igo Kantor, whose Hollywood career took him from Howard Hughes’ projection room to supervising post-production on “Easy Rider” and producing B-movies like “Kingdom of the Spiders” and “Mutant,” died Oct. 15. He was 89. Kantor, who was born in Vienna and raised in Lisbon, met “Dillinger” director Max Nosseck on the ship to New York. [...]

  • The Lion King

    Average Movie Ticket Price Falls 4% in Third Quarter of 2019

    Average ticket prices for the third quarter have dropped 4% to $8.93, down from Q2’s $9.26, the National Association of Theatre Owners announced today. However, compared with the third quarter of 2018, ticket price has risen 1.1% from $8.83. The summer box office is down 2.13% from 2018, though the third quarter box office is [...]

  • Tilda Swinton to Preside Over The

    Tilda Swinton to Preside Over Marrakech Film Festival

    Tilda Swinton, the iconoclastic British actress and producer, is set to preside over the 18th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival, succeeding to American director James Gray. Swinton, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA award for best supporting actress for “Michael Clayton,” has been leading an eclectic acting career. She has collaborated with [...]

  • The King Netflix

    Middleburg Film Festival Brings Hollywood to Virginia

    For the last seven years, audiences have flocked to the Middleburg Film Festival. Running October 17th – 21st, and situated in the wine-country hills of historic Middleburg, Virg., the festival usually highlights some of the year’s buzziest titles, and 2019 is no exception. “We’re a smaller festival with fewer overall screenings than other events, so we [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content