Le Cancre (The Dunce)
At the age of 86, legend of French cinema Paul Vecchiali finally got his first official selection for the Cannes Film Festival. Featured as a Special Screening, the filmmaker presents Le Cancre (The Dunce) but unfortunately fails to live up to expectations.
Le Cancre is far more autobiographic than Vecchiali admits. Confiding in several interviews that the starting point for this project was his own experience of what his main character yearns for, finding one’s first true love after a lifetime, the result feels forcefully constructed around this idea. The identification between the protagonist and the auteur is even more inevitable considering that Paul Vecchiali plays the part of Rodolphe in the film.
Rodolphe is obsessed by the memory of Marguerite (Catherine Deneuve), the special one among the many women in his life, and tries at all costs to find her again. On the other hand, his son Laurent (Pascal Cervo, Vecchiali’s darling who has already starred in two of his previous films), lethargic and apathetic to an irritating point, tries to show affection for his father despite his obvious commitment difficulties, while living his own complicated stories.
Addressing two strong topics, it is unclear if the plot is about the ghosts of the father’s past loves or about the relationship with his son. Certainly both themes are tied by the concept of obsession, translated by Vecchiali into visual and auditory surreality. Several creative superimpositions and apparitions give the film its eccentric edge, but feel too put-on and stagy to be charming.
The only topic Le Cancre addresses consistently is that of old age, Rodolphe’s candid grudges and harmless insults frequently allowing a smile. With a few bright lines and a penchant for puns, Le Cancre has a decent script – although occasionally a little theatrical – written by Noel Simsolo and the director himself. On the minus side, these double meanings and the play on names are sadly exclusive to a French-speaking audience.
After being in the spotlight of French cinema for almost half a century (his first feature film dates back to 1961), Paul Vecchiali allows himself to indulge on a highly autobiographic film that poetises his own womaniser past. The outcome is a procession of actresses, and a few actors, the director has worked with over the decades. Le Cancre has a fine amount of grotesque and some good script ideas, but it feels better to remember Vecchiali’s older films.
Le Cancre does not yet have a UK release date.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Cannes Film Festival 2016 visit here.
Watch the trailer for Le Cancre here: