Toril: In the bullpen
by Vladan Petkovic
- French debutant Laurent Teyssier delivers an accomplished mix between social drama and crime movie
French director Laurent Teyssier's feature debut, Toril [+see also:
interview: Laurent Teyssier
film profile], is an impressively crafted cross between a social drama and a crime movie, with expert storytelling driving it at a very fast pace, and still leaving room for the in-depth development of characters and their relations. The film screened in the Warsaw Film Festival's 1-2 Competition, dedicated to directors’ first and second films.
Living in rural Provence, the main character Phillipe (super-intense Vincent Rottiers, nominated for a César for Best Supporting Actor for Dheepan [+see also:
Q&A: Jacques Audiard
film profile]) helps at the farm owned by his father, Jean-Jacques (veteran Bernard Blancan,best known recently for his roles in Rachid Bouchareb's films), and grows and sells small amounts of marijuana of his own. When Jean-Jacques tries to kill himself because he is forced to sell his land to repay his debts, Phillipe decides to rent out their storage room at the wholesale market to Jose (Turkish-German actor Tim Seyfi), a major drug dealer in the region, and also sell the hashish to Jose's clients. Meanwhile, Phillipe's brother Cyril (Alexis Michalik) is struggling to get by with his restaurant.
Of course, this business endeavour will not turn out well for Phillipe or his family, including Bruno (Karim Leklou), the cousin of Cyril's wife, who works for Jose.
Teyssier mixes the issue of decline of small farmers in the face of total domination of supermarket chains and big capital with the more morally ambivalent question of drug control. Actually, in a way, perhaps the latter folds into the former – Phillipe can be seen as a small producer with his little greenhouse of weed, being swallowed up by a big dealer who sells kilos of hash and coke. "I'm not one of you," he tells Jose, and you can imagine how that works out for him.
The Spanish word for bullpen, toril, relates both to Phillipe's situation and the region's bullfighting tradition. Jose also owns bulls, and sometimes puts them to lethal use. All this is so neatly wrapped up in the script by Guillame Grosse, and executed with a flair for excitingly framed visuals by Baptiste Chesnais, and expert, but never too fast, cutting by Nicolas Capus, that the narrative moves so swiftly that the viewer feels the film runs much shorter than its 90-minute duration. Amazingly, all the members of the crew mentioned in this paragraph are also debutants in the feature film world.