Struggle for Life: "It’s going to be hard to bring things up to standard"
by Fabien Lemercier
- After The Rendez-Vous of Déjà-Vu, Antonin Peretjatko brings us a new unrestrained, intelligent and corrosive comedy being distributed by Haut et Court
Tarantulas, iguanas, snakes and other beasts from the animal kingdom should watch out, as planet Earth is home to a much more astonishing species, which thrives on the pig-headed absurdity of its civilising ambitions: human beings. And it’s in a modern world in which the high administrative spheres of decisions that are completely out of touch with reality come crashing down that highly original French filmmaker Antonin Peretjatko has chosen to invest in Struggle for Life [+see also:
film profile], with the farcical and poetic freedom that also characterised his debut feature film The Rendez-Vous of Déjà-Vu [+see also:
film profile] (unveiled at Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes in 2013 and nominated for the César for Best First Feature Film in 2014). Joyfully returning to his favourite actors, Vincent Macaigne and Vimala Pons (after resisting pressure from the system to choose actors that would be more ‘bankable’) and not once turning away from the wild spirit of his comedy, the director takes up the challenge, with astounding ease, of broadening the horizon of his humour (which is a lot more subtle than his addiction to an unrelenting pace of gags would initially have us believe), with a film shot on another continent that mixes several genres, from adventure to romantic fiction, with a fanciful and sarcastic portrayal of the absurdity of the conformism that dominates the present-day.
Stuck in a cycle of internships for going on ten years, Châtaigne (Vincent Macaigne) is sent on a mission by the Ministry of Standards in Paris to "ensure that European standards are being applied on the Guyaneige building site”, a project for the first ever Amazonian ski slope put together in partnership with a pension fund for seniors and the World Sport Bank. Equipped with the Code of standards and pursued by a relentless bailiff following some homonymic confusion ("take a few steps to prove that you’re alive"), our kindly singleton, who’s stuck in a rut and full of willingness, heads for French Guyana ("it’s France, whose empire that the sun will never go down on!). But predictably, despite the best efforts of the Guianese Tropical Council (headed up by Mathieu Amalric), the reality of the situation on the ground is far removed from what the technocrats intended, like the statue of Marianne that opens the film, which falls into the middle of the Amazon rainforest as it is being airlifted by helicopter for an opening ceremony. And Châtaigne’s South American stay is full of twists and turns, as our ‘hero’ quickly gets lost in the jungle alongside another intern, Tarzan (played by the charismatic Vimala Pons, who also stars in Elle [+see also:
film profile] by Paul Verhoeven, currently being shown in theatres). What follows are nights spent sleeping under the stars perched on tree branches, crossings of rapids, grotesque encounters with mercenaries and a religious sect, an overpowering aphrodisiac, meals of larvae, and flights of butterflies. Adventure and love are on the cards in this return to nature, in a film that knows how to take the time to dream in the midst of the corrosive farce born from the follies of globalisation gone mad.
Produced by Alice Girard for Rectangle Productions, Struggle for Life was co-produced by Belgium and most notably received support in the form of an advance on receipts from the CNC. Released in French theatres this Wednesday by Haut et Court, the feature is being sold internationally by Be For Films.
(Translated from French)