Staying Vertical (2016)

ALAIN GUIRAUDIE

Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.5

Original title:  Rester Vertical

, 2016, , , , , , , , , , , , , , Screenplay by Cinematography by Produced by , Music by Production Design by Costume Design by , , Film Editing by Cannes Film Festival 2016.  Online Film Critics Awards 2016.  

A filmmaker () who has made the rash decision to sell everything and drive across the French countryside spots a handsome young man walking near a rural home, so he stops to tell him that he could cast him in a film.  Rejected by a youngster who instantly suspects he’s being hit on, our protagonist drives on and eventually befriends a shepherdess who lives on a farm with her father, and the two of them start an affair while he helps her tend her flock.  Time passes and she eventually leaves him after giving birth to their baby, which puts him on a road to destruction that involves his living situation growing more dire and depressing as he flits between the same few locations: the farm is sometimes a refuge but the unpredictable nature of his ex-girlfriend’s father often makes it a challenge, the boy’s house where he lives with his ornery grandfather provides strange encounters, an artist’s retreat that looks like something out of Avatar, and a few jaunts into the big city comprise a loop of destinations that show director Alain Guiraudie (Stranger By The Lake) once again telling a story through a series of repetitions that gradually reveal themselves as a kind of spiral. As his money runs out and his career opportunities vanish, Bonnard falls down a rabbit hole of increasingly dire vulnerability that threatens to swallow him whole, but what should be mysterious and dangerous is, thanks to a series of implausible situations made worse by the character’s clearly poor judgment, a painfully unwatchable misfire that gains nothing by its bold imagery (close-ups of vaginas in place of scrotums this time, and a scene of unsimulated child birth).  The turns of plot are, at best, illogical and at worst laughably preposterous, as if Guiraudie wrote it from a disturbing dream, with people behaving like they just arrived on Earth and are still learning how to be human (that or I’m wrong and sodomizing a dying old man is exactly the way to bring him peace).  It’s the sort of thing one would expect more from Bruno Dumont than the man whose previous work was so perfectly hypnotic, replacing that film’s bewitching cinematography for a flat and unappealing look and a cast of actors who never get anywhere with their shallow characters.

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