×

Cannes Film Review: ‘Apnea’

An insufferable improvised madcap comedy composed of unconnected skits designed to poke fun at bourgeois presumptions.

With:
Céline Fuhrer, Thomas Scimeca, Maxence Tual, Thomas de Pourquery, Olivier Saladin, Claire Nadeau, Jean-Luc Vincent, Nicolas Bouchaud, Pascal Sangla, Robert Hatisi, Solal Bouloudnine.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5493370/

It’s unlikely anyone outside France will be watching “Apnea,” and that’s a good thing since its pseudo-madcap humor won’t translate well on foreign shores. Not that there’d be a problem with subtitling (the entirely improvised dialogue isn’t an issue); it’s the insufferability of it all. Two men and a woman careen about through various skits, partly (entirely?) shot in Corsica, creating a mildly anarchic effect that feels like comedy interstitials in a late-night TV show. Debuting helmer Jean-Christophe Meurisse probably wanted to create a sort of challenge to the bourgeoisie, yet there’s nothing destabilizing here, just silly and oddly old hat.

The opening sees Céline (Céline Fuhrer), Thomas (Thomas Scimeca) and Max (Maxence Tual) bursting into a registry office in strapless bridal gowns, demanding the mayor (Jean-Luc Vincent) marry the trio. He politely explains that threesome weddings aren’t legal, they protest and he flies off the handle. That pretty much sums up the arc of much of the ensuing sketches, all apparently blocked out in theme and location but improvised during shooting.

The film is designed without a connecting thread, other than the personalities of its central trio, each of whom view the world with naiveté crossed with exasperation that their desires are hampered by others. So they don’t rent an apartment, they don’t get a loan to start an amusement park, but they do protest loudly (especially Céline) when their requests are not met with approval. In other words, they behave like spoiled children, which really isn’t the best way to challenge the status quo. Unsurprisingly there’s also a bit of religious satire with an angry priest (Nicolas Bouchaud) and later a very bloody Jesus (Robert Hatisi, more amusing than most).

Spanish satirist Luis Buñuel used similar situations but knew how to be brilliantly subversive, plus he was a master of construction. Meurisse, founder of theater collective Les Chiens de Navarre, merely shifts from one situation to another in tedious succession, his three leads attacking each scene with gusto but remaining very much in improv theater mode. At least the visuals are sunnily attractive.

Popular on Variety

Cannes Film Review: 'Apnea'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics’ Week), May 16, 2016. Running time: 88 MIN. Original title: (“Apnée”)

Production: (France) A Shellac release of an Ecce Films production, with the participation of Cine plus, in association with Cinémage 10. (International sales: Ecce Films, Paris.) Produced by Emmanuel Chaumet.

Crew: Directed by Jean-Christophe Meurisse. Screenplay, Meurisse, in collaboration with Amélie Philippe. Camera (color), Javier Ruiz Gomez; editor, Carole Le Page; production designers, Sven Kuffer, Hervé Redoules; costume designer, Elizabeth Cerqueira; sound (5.1), Colin Favre-Bulle; sound editor, Lucas Hébérlé; 1st assistant director, Emilie Orsatelli Tesi.

With: Céline Fuhrer, Thomas Scimeca, Maxence Tual, Thomas de Pourquery, Olivier Saladin, Claire Nadeau, Jean-Luc Vincent, Nicolas Bouchaud, Pascal Sangla, Robert Hatisi, Solal Bouloudnine.

More Film

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content