Pour des raisons professionnelles, un ami proche a abandonné quelques jours sa charmante épouse, parallèlement une autre amie se trouvait en butte aux mesquineries d’un bureaucrate encasquetté et cauteleux, nous nous devions d’agir face aux indignités et bassesses de la vie et remplacer une morosité grandissante par un sourire ou mieux. D’où notre choix commun de découvrir la dernière comédie d’Albert Dupontel, commodément intitulée Le Vilain.
L’argument est simple : Sydney (Albert Dupontel) est affreux sale et méchant et veut la peau de sa brave mère (Catherine Frot) qui n’a qu’un désir l’aider à se rédimer. La mécanique agit car les acteurs jouent avec enthousiasme et suffisamment de naïveté et de conviction pour que le burlesque et le comique de situation fonctionnent. Catherine Frot est impeccable en vieille mère obstinée jusqu’à une douce férocité. La fébrilité, la confusion de Sydney alliées à une méchanceté imaginative absolue sont la marque de fabrique des héros Dupontellien et celui-ci est une réussite singulière. Les attentats menés par Pénélope, une tortue rancunière, l’inventivité et les machines infernales de Sydney, la grâce de tous les rôles secondaires (en particulier Bouli Lanners en promoteur véreux et Nicolas Marié en médecin brisé retrouvant sa passion) ravissent. La force du Vilain tient au fait que M. Dupontel partage l’affiche et se réserve quelques moments d’hystérie mais sans contaminer l’ensemble du film comme dans ses œuvres précédentes, Bernie, Le Créateur ou encore Enfermés Dehors, toutes trois centrées sur son personnage uniquement.
Mais si le film est bon, il est peut-être aussi trop propre et gentil pour emporter totalement l’adhésion. Sa vision de la banlieue nostalgique, propre, sortie du formol, colle à un imaginaire digne du Petit Nicolas, et ce qui devient une forme de tendresse foutraque n’est pas suffisamment maîtrisée pour ne pas apparaître un peu niaise. M. Dupontel a réussi à apprivoiser sa rage destructrice et misanthrope si flagrante dans Bernie et Enfermé Dehors, mais il n’a pas encore retrouvé la mise en scène percutante et l’originalité constante du Créateur. Son choix d’acteurs, sa générosité avec ceux-ci et sa liberté de ton générale font néanmoins passer un très agréable moment, mais surtout augure bien de la suite.
Albert Dupontel, talented comedian, lives well up to his name of The Villain in this blacker than black comedy. From his earliest childhood, he has wreaked havoc on those around him with his genius instinct for subterfuge and crime, be it man or beast (or tortoise, to be more exact). The film begins with him racing through the streets of Paris with a dastardly grin on his face, fleeing an ominous looking van with black tinted windows that is firing round after round of shots in his direction. Scaling a conveniently situated water tower, it suddenly dawns on him that he has found his way back to his old neighbourhood.
Meanwhile, his delightful widowed mother (brilliantly played by Catherine Frot) is lamenting the fact that she is seemingly cursed: accident after accident keeps befalling her, yet she always escapes unscathed, however implausibly. She feels that she’s been through a lot over the years, quite frankly, and is grateful for the good times but is now eager to take leave gracefully from this mortal coil. A gang of slick developers are even trying to repossess all of the houses in her neighbourhood so as to build a big shiny banking district over the top of it, such that she wonders what she could ever have done to deserve getting trapped so completely at the peak of health.
All becomes clear once her eminently prodigal son arrives at her doorstep in the dead of night, wheezing with a gunshot wound. It’s been over twenty years since she last saw her boy, who remains sealed in her heart as the epitome of goodness. A few hours in his company suffice to disabuse her however, as whilst her son slumps into a gunshot slumber, she discovers various incriminating childhood souvenirs that he has dug up from the floorboards of his old bedroom prior to passing out on the floor (he awakens from this to find himself in bed, bedecked in ill-fitting 1970s pyjamas). Everything his mother finds points to skulduggery of the highest order: forged doctor’s prescriptions, doctored school reports, blackmail material… Needless to say, as a good mother she cannot let this terrible discovery pass: she must raise a good son, the reason for her being kept from a peaceful passing is now clear. Surely she will not be allowed to pass on to the next world in peace until she has fulfilled her role as mother and amended her son’s wicked ways.
Strangely, while I found the tragedies of global proportions playing out in In The Loop quite the pleasure to howl along with laughter to, this more inward-looking portrayal of misunderstanding and miscommunication really had me wincing. It is so easy, and frequently painful, to find ourselves realising we’d put someone or something on a pedestal, only for it to prove to be as far from the truth as we could possibly have thought. OK, perhaps it’s not all that frequent an occurrence, but life is nevertheless often a continuous process of progressive disillusionment. Here, that universal dynamic is taken to its harshest possible extremes.
But enough of the sentimentality! There are some fabulous moments in the film. Some of the best are centred around the film’s tortoise. The poor beast has been enduring the indignity of sporting a Tippex-addled shell covered with obscenities for decades thanks to the younger Dupontel’s antics, and it has seemingly not forgotten its torturer. Oh no. When Dupontel shows up again, it spends much of its time manoeuvring itself so as to fall from a great height onto his head. So much so that Dupontel resorts to wearing a hard hat. That’s turtle power for you. Another major highlight is the demented alcoholic doctor who’d had his career ruined by Dupontel and his fraudulent prescription. Catherine Frot summons him back, boosting his shattered confidence no end by enlisting him to remove the series of bullets that manages to find itself embedded in various parts of her son’s anatomy.
Overall, this film is a sound bet for an escapist evening if you have a strong stomach for black comedy. I’ll definitely be on the look out for more films starring Dupontel or his darling mother.