La tete en friche (2010)
Directed by: Jean Becker | 86 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Gérard Depardieu, Gisèle Casadesus, Maurane, Patrick Bouchitey, Jean-François Stévenin, François-Xavier Demaison, Claire Maurier, Sophie Guillemin, Mélanie Bernier, Matthieu Dahan, Jérôme Deschamps, Gilles Détroit, Régis Laspalès, Anne Le Guernec Luc Porraz, Bruno Ricci, Lyès Salem, Florian Yven
Although he has been around for a while, French director Jean Becker is not a regular guest in Dutch cinemas. His most famous work, the sensual thriller ‘L’été meurtrier’ (1983), owes its fame mainly to a dazzling Isabelle Adjani and a strong novel by Sébastien Japrisot. In 2007 Becker scored another arthouse hit with the nostalgic ‘Dialogue avec mon jardinier’, another book adaptation. Becker’s latest, ‘La tête en friche’, is not only based on a novel but also deals with the necessity of literature and reading. Does that produce intelligent drama?
Not really. ‘La tête en friche’ is first and foremost a film about the emancipation of an uneducated mind. A bit like ‘Il Postino’, but in the French province. For the dorky Germain from ‘La tête en friche’, this emancipation does not lead to political consciousness, but to more social self-confidence. That is also necessary, because his mother is an asshole and the relationship with his girlfriend threatens to get stuck.
It probably could have resulted in something beautiful, but ‘La tête en friche’ is a succession of clichés in several respects. The village in which the story takes place comes straight out of a tourist brochure. We have the village pub, run by a heartbroken barmaid who is slightly overweight. There we meet the village intellectual who makes his puzzles and a group of single men who go into collective confusion when a new villager enters. There is the village cook (Jojo Zecouc), the village drunk, the schoolmaster, the sweet old lady, the memorial, the park with its pigeons.
The clichés also apply to the story. After ten minutes you know exactly how it will all end and every scene is equally predictable. What does Germain’s girlfriend have to say when she’s so quiet and gloomy? Why doesn’t Germain’s mother answer when he calls her? We know the answers because we already know the scenes from hundreds of predecessors. And that’s not even talking about the many predictable jokes.
‘La tête en friche’ is just enough as a promotional film for literature, although it is somewhat poor if in an 86-minute film at least ten minutes are spent quoting from novels and dictionaries. For example, this comedy drama is better spent on literature lovers than on movie buffs. But it is mainly intended for people who think that the French live on baguettes and wine. And that French men shout o la la as soon as a woman in a skirt slides past.