Director: Sabine Crossen
Writer: Hervé Quentric
Cast: Flavie Péan, Hervé Quentric
Beinvenue chez Candy is the kind of film that will play at a lot of very specific festivals. For some people that is enough. There are events which are built around movies like this; stylised violence, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, perpetual destruction of the fourth-wall. It’s all very knowingly post-modern, and any independent festival director hoping to draw out Tarantino-lovers would likely jump at the chance of screening it.
Whether it works beyond that is up for discussion, though. It requires an audience of the initiated to take much joy from it – and even then, it is not satisfaction guaranteed. Once the initial shock wears off, with the slow-burning script having led us down a seemingly very different path, everything becomes cartoonish, and bizarrely safe. And that is definitely not how I should be feeling about a story in which an apparent meet-cute descends into a gory fiesta of mutual mutilation.
Sabine Crossen does her best to steer us away from the obvious answers – and does admirably enough in the film’s opening act. The film takes on the format of a cosy documentary, where two lovers explain how they first met. Etienne (Hervé Quentric) catches the eye of Candy (Flavie Péan) when, distracted by her looks, he burns his hand attempting to light a cigarette. The framing and lighting, mixed with whimsical music and shots of longing stares between the two suggest a light-hearted, inoffensive rom-com.
Hervé Quentric’s script also does a descent job of suggesting this is where things are going. When the story does take a turn, however, it’s a turn downhill.
The pair go back to Candy’s for drinks. After a seemingly innocuous question ‘haven’t I seen you somewhere’, Candy attacks Etienne. She smacks him in the head with a drinks tray, and the scene descends into Looney Tunes-style violence so rapidly that before you know it, Etienne is strangling Candy with the world’s strongest, most flexible baguette.
Over the course of the fight scene, it is hard to feel much of anything. It’s not scary – as well choreographed as it is, none of the blows seem to carry any weight, while it becomes clear that however much blood either combatant loses, they will apparently be fine. But it’s not funny either. Violence of this type can work comedically when it takes on real elements of everyday life. The fighting in Shaun of the Dead works on that basis. But this is wacky humour, removed from most people’s lived experiences – and also with no hint of danger for the pair. To the extent it ends with the pair apparently going at each other with a chainsaw and a pair of samurai swords.
Throughout the bemusing spectacle, it is hard not to simply check out. Not least because it becomes clear very quickly that the spree of violence is actually the pair falling for each other, in a Natural Born Killers kind of way. Knowing that, a minute into five minutes of mediocre battling, does not make for something I would recommend watching.
Editing the sequence down, and doing more to explain how we reach the film’s concluding setting might have been more compelling – though again, if you are familiar with Natural Born Killers you’ll probably still feel like you’re trapped in a lamentably slow-paced funfair ride. None of this makes for a film I would really like to have watched, or that I would recommend to someone else.
There are technical matters which go well for this production. But beyond the surface-level stuff, it lacks the killer instinct, wit or style that it seems to believe it has.