Le Grand Chariot (The Plough)
After his last Competition entry, The Salt of Tears, inflamed passions at the 70th edition of the festival, Philippe Garrel plays it safer this year, with a matter close to the heart. His three children, Louis, Esther (the only one whose character’s name doesn’t correspond with her own) and Lena, play the protagonists in a family drama about a dying art form.
Le Grand Chariot is a touring puppet theatre that looks a little like the Théâtre Vrai Guignolet featured in the Audrey Hepburn classic Charade (which can be visited at the Champs Elysée to this day). This particular booth and set of dolls are operated by an entire family of puppeteers: father, grandmother and children are all involved in varying capacities. When the patriarch suffers a stroke during a performance, the younger generation are forced to confront their own dreams and expectations in life.
Philippe Garrel’s intention for this chronicle was to work with all of his offspring on the same project – and therein, clearly, lies the film’s appeal. The audience longs to see these gifted individuals interact in what arguably should be particularly intimate performances, given such an extensive personal history. The script, co-written by Garrel, Jean-Claude Carrière, Arlette Langmann and Caroline Deruas Peano, tries to accommodate each of them but ends up shooting its bolt on a “love quadrant” between Louis, his best friend Pieter, their co-worker and Pieter’s ex, who is also the mother of his child. It is amusing in parts, but the noncommittal focus soon segues into a round dance, the camera spending too much time with people who aren’t essential to the story. Esther’s character in particular comes away empty-handed as far as material to work with goes, even though she has already proven herself in no way inferior to any of her relatives.
While maintaining a pleasant level of entertainment throughout its 95-minute runtime, as a whole, The Plough does not quite feel like a brand-new European release, perhaps lamenting more than one artistic extinction.
Le Grand Chariot (The Plough) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Le Grand Chariot (The Plough) here: