Deep Breath


Deep Breath Review

You'll need to take more than a few deep breaths before enduring Damien Odoul's 77-minute meditation on the rites of manhood. Compared by some to France's fellow enfant terrible Bruno Dumont (L'Humanité), Odoul's heavy-handed men's movement preoccupations with animals and fatherhood just can't measure up. Dumont's ability to find poetry in arid topography and lost soul performances may be pretentious, but it's also fraught with an almost cosmic sense of dread. It's difficult to tear your eyes away from the tense inaction of L'Humanité, whereas Deep Breath (like its main character) would rather stay asleep in bed when there's work to be done.

Deep Breath follows a single day in the drib-drab life of David (Pierre-Louis Bonnetblanc), an aimless teenager spending a few weeks with his slovenly uncle on a ramshackle, isolated farm. This kid is trouble. He's content to fritter away the hours pegging donkeys with stones or smashing inanimate objects such as furniture and trees, for starters. His only solace is distracting himself by blasting his walkman, but that only fuels his aggressive fire with songs about capping people, or more often beautiful women grabbing his cock. He's still a virgin, so this stuff is tantamount to his education. The uncle assigns chores, but never really follows through on making sure David finishes them. He knows full well this kid is a slacker who will inevitably screw things up, growing up to be just another deadbeat with no prospects for his future.

With a condescending perspective on country life, Odoul assembles a motley collection of overweight, hairy, hard-drinking farmers that have nothing good to say about anyone. ("Fathers always abandon their sons! My father shot some buckshot into my scalp. It's still there. See it?") After gorging themselves on cooked sheep and rabbit, they make sport of getting David wildly drunk. Once he's good and wasted, Deep Breath follows his misadventures of running through the woods, occasionally stripping naked and pretending to run with the wolves. Now that he's gone through the cathartic drinking ritual, only sexual conquest and perhaps redemptive violence can make him into a true man.

It's as conceited and as boring as it sounds, complete with fantasy sequences of aggressive heavyweight mud wrestling and literal butterfly kisses. Shot in stark black-and-white, Odoul's cinematography is the sort that gives Robert Bresson's artistry a bad name. It's not that the shots are long and slow; they're just poorly conceived and work on only one level. What you see is what you get. Bruno Dumont's L'Humanité finds an expressive quality in landscapes and the tiny figures that move through them, insignificant under the sun. When David walks across an open field, there's no deeper implication in the framing of the horizon, the trees, or David himself; it's simply a shot of an open field.

Some may presume the graphic depiction of gutting animals for the farmer's feast is justification for walking out, and this spilling of intestines is not for the faint of heart. That's not the main reason Deep Breath is borderline unwatchable garbage. Hollow where its heart should be, Odoul never taps into recognizable human behavior or even unique surrealist reflections. The calculated impact of David's journey toward masculine violence might be expected from a first year philosophy student's treatise on Robert Bly, but fails to prick the layers of disenfranchisement that inform such extreme behavior. Deep Breath's dysfunctional Hicksville is as patently dishonest as the smug knee-jerk optimism of Pay It Forward (a studio picture) or the simpering hatred pie in Todd Solondz's Storytelling (an American indie). It's almost downright encouraging how marked the lack of substance presents itself in these three would-be morality tales. Films that cross over cultural, financial, and categorical borders on their short, numb journey to the rubbish heap. It's the maggot in the apple, and there's plenty more where that came from. (I've resisted the urge to say Deep Breath is a load of deep shit, but there's only so long I can bite my tongue.)

Hold it as long as you can.

Deep Breath

Facts and Figures

Run time: 79 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 23rd August 2014

Reviews 1 / 5

IMDB: 8.0 / 10

Cast & Crew


Producer: Gérard Lacroix

Starring: as David, Dominique Chevalier as Jacques (as Dominique Chevallier), as Paul, as John, Jean Milord as M'sieur Milord, Stéphane Terpereau as Stef, Thierry Benoiton as Kangourou, Pierre Lasvaud as Pierrot, Laurent Simon as Matthieu, Laure Magadoux as Aurore