Charge! The team at the Moliterno Garage won't give up...
dir Robert Guediguian
scr Robert Guediguian, Jean-Louis Milesi
with Ariane Ascaride, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Gerard Meylan, Frederique Bonnal, Pierre Banderet, Patrick Bonnel, Alain Lenglet, Laetitia Pesenti, Christine Brucher, Jacques Boudet, Jacques Pieiller, Denis Podalydes
release UK 20.Jul.01
Canal+ 00/France 1h30
Almost like a cinematic experiment, Guediguian's offbeat social comedy is both intriguing and intensely frustrating. It's about two screenwriters (Pielliller and Podalydes) who get together to write a social comedy, even though they haven't a clue what they're talking about. Their story, enacted on screen, is centred in a Marseilles garage, home to an entire family of needy people: Manager Lola (Ascaride) is a single mother being pursued by mechanic Gigi (Meylan). Lola's brother Jean-Do (Darroussin) is having trouble in his marriage to Marthe (Bonnal), who in turn is drawn to the layabout Henri (Bonnel). Meanwhile, a company owner (Banderet) is refusing to pay his bill, which might force the garage to close, which would leave them all homeless as well.
The story moves uneasily as the writers try to guess what life must be like for the underclasses ... even while they make an excellent point that the law is on the side of the rich. The sheer injustice of the system makes us care for these characters, even though they're all stereotypes. And maybe this is Guediguian's point! At least the performances are good. But the disjointed, contrived story continually alienates us, accompanied by strangely cheesy '40s movie music. It simply doesn't work, undermining the serious themes with awkward comedy and confusing layers of fiction. A very odd experiment indeed, and not a terribly successful one.
"I stumbled on this film by chance and loved it. The oddness of sympathising with characters which are stereoypes created by the scriptwriters is great. The cosy domesticity of the writers asks you whether people distanced from an event or milieu can write about it. Quirky, thought-provoking and very entertaining. I am on the look out for more work by Robert Guediguian." --Sally, Orkney 20.Nov.02