By Rich Cline
Mixing warm drama with hilariously deadpan comedy, this is one of the most unusual road movies you'll ever see. But the filmmakers' approach is clever, artful and often very funny as it makes profound observations about human nature.
Serge (Depardieu), better known as Mammuth, is a long-haired biker dude who has retired from working in a slaughterhouse. His sharp-tongued wife Catherine (Moreau) has no idea how he'll fill his time and, when his pension doesn't come through, she starts to worry that her supermarket job isn't enough to make ends meet. So he dusts off his old motorbike and heads off in search of the papers he needs to claim his pension. But riding it sparks memories of his lost love (Adjani), who haunts him as he travels from town to town.
Low-key and meandering, the film is packed with dry humour. Filmmakers de Kervern and Delepine infuse each scene with an unpredictable absurdity, both background sight gags and much broader slapstick, although it's all played dead straight. It's similar to Napoleon Dynamite in the way it observes the lumbering Serge, but it has a sharper sense of self-awareness: Serge knows he's a mess, and his bluster is an expression of his feelings of uselessness.
Obviously, the nickname refers Serge's (and Depardieu's) elephantine physicality, And the filmmakers are also noting how this loyal and skilled but uneducated blue-collar worker is like some sort of extinct creature in the modern world. Depardieu is terrific in the role, pretty hideous to look at but utterly endearing. His increasingly surreal quest seems maddeningly futile, and yet we can tell that it's helping him come to terms with who he is and where life has taken him.
As Serge's journey progresses, a plaintive, emotional quality emerges in scenes that are funny, strange, outrageous and sometimes thrillingly beautiful. His efforts to locate documentation of his life are constantly thwarted, and his reunions with his distant family members are strange and a bit twisted. Both indulgent and episodic, the film's skilfully assembled with attention to the smallest of details. Everything that happens gives us more insight into this man's soul. And it helps him figure it out too.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 30th September 2011
Distributed by: Olive Films
Production compaines: GMT Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 15 Rotten: 9
Cast & Crew
Director: Benoit Delepine, Gustave de Kervern
Producer: Jean-Pierre Guerin, Veronique Marchat
Screenwriter: Benoit Delepine, Gustave de Kervern
Starring: Gérard Depardieu as Serge Pilardosse, dit Mammuth, Yolande Moreau as Catherine Pilardosse, Isabelle Adjani as L'amour perdu de Serge, Benoît Poelvoorde as Le récupérateur de métal, Philippe Nahon as Le directeur gâteux de l'hospice, Bouli Lanners as Le recruteur, Anna Mouglalis as La fausse handicapée, Siné as Le viticulteur, Gustave de Kervern as Le boucher au supermarché, Bruno Lochet as Le VRP au restaurant, Catherine Hosmalin as La copine de Catherine, Dick Annegarn as Le gardien du cimetière, Albert Delpy as Pierre, Blutch as L'employé de la caisse de retraite, Miss Ming as Solange, dite Miss Ming, Paulo Anarkao as La grosse Bertha