9 Doigts (9 Fingers)
This is a frighteningly juvenile, pretentious piece of work from 61-year-old writer and director C J Ossang. What begins as an amateurish noir quickly evolves into a markedly superficial and unquestionably French philosophical treatise. It’s as if the film swallows an undergraduate module in poststructuralist theory during the first act. For the apparently limited budget, Ossang does at least construct a sense of claustrophobia and simmering insanity on the cargo ship that’s caught somewhere between home, the intended destination and “Nowhereland”. But unless this is one of the straightest satires ever conceived – and if so, fair enough – 9 Fingers is instead a hilariously po-faced, nonsensical misfire.
The police chase a man called Magloire (Paul Hamy), who has come into a large wad of money. He swerves his pursuers but gets picked up by an absurd gang of criminals. Several adorned with sunglasses, all with moody intent, they interrogate Magliore in a dilapidated kitchen. He agrees to join their cohort, led by a faintly charismatic sovereign figure whose name is… Kurtz (Damien Bonnard). He looks more like an impotent Jean-Paul Sartre. No sooner has the group botched a break-in and they’re fleeing with some toxic freight across the seas. In the enclosed ship, Magliore must deal with the affection of femme fatales Gerda (Evire) and Drella (Lisa Hartmann), and with the bizarre pontifications and paranoia of Ferrante (Pascal Greggory) and Warner (Lionel Tua). All the while Kurtz loses his bearings and goes AWOL, much to everyone’s surprise. Magliore must keep his own sanity from slipping as he starts to ask questions. Will they ever reach shore? Who is the mysteriously monikered “9 Fingers”? This summary makes the plot appear more involving than it deserves. Only some academic over-interpretation – the sovereign cast out to sea, “Nowhereland” as the state of exception – could muster any personal interest.
Filmed in black and white, the picture maintains a suitably dark and murky aesthetic throughout, and there is an amusingly aloof turn from Gaspard Ulliel as the late-coming, sly doctor. But overall this is interminable stuff, with performances ranging from stale to broad. Admittedly the script, filled with existential sixth-form musings, is of no help to the cast. One pleading query aimed at Ferrante near the end – “why are you being so enigmatic?” – isn’t sufficient justification for the rambling 90-odd minutes that preceded it.
9 Doigts (9 Fingers) does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for 9 Doigts (9 Fingers) here: