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CANNES 2023 Critics’ Week

Review: Vincent Must Die


- CANNES 2023: Stéphan Castang casts a brilliant Karim Leklou at the intersection of genres, amidst a paranoia-fuelled storm reminiscent of a survival movie

Review: Vincent Must Die
Karim Leklou in Vincent Must Die

"The less I see people, the better I feel". An ordinary forty-something man, a graphic designer glued to his computer day and night in his open plan home, a lonely bachelor recovering from a break-up, cutting through the town on his bike with his earphones in his ears, looking for "dates" on apps, is the character which Stéphan Castang has decided to thrust into an extraordinary situation in his incredibly hard-hitting movie Vincent Must Die [+see also:
interview: Stéphan Castang
film profile
, which was unveiled in a special screening during the 62nd edition of Critics’ Week, unspooling within the 76th Cannes Film Festival. It’s a first feature film which recklessly pulls together a multitude of genres with great playfulness of spirit, all the while packing an almighty punch; genres ranging from paranoia-fuelled psychological thriller to investigative film, by way of survival, sci-fi and dystopic movie, and totally off-the-wall romantic comedy.

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"I feel like there’s real madness around me". At the police station, with a beaten up face and his arm in a sling, Vincent (Karim Leklou) tries to understand the incomprehensible. In the space of two days, two of his colleagues have attacked him with brutal violence for no apparent reason and without knowing why themselves. As if that wasn’t enough, his managers are having doubts over him and ask him to work from home "for everyone’s sake". And this is only the beginning of his troubles because he’s convinced – and this intuition is swiftly confirmed by subsequent events – that tirades of aggressiveness might be unleashed against him anyplace and anytime. In a permanent state of high alert and acute paranoia, Vincent tries to get to the bottom of this mystery and ultimately realises that eye contact is the trigger. So he’s forced to flee the town and take refuge in the isolation of the countryside. He also needs to learn to defend himself and to survive, while limiting social interactions to a bare minimum. But this is far from easy when a young woman (Vimala Pons) catches your eye and violence is spreading throughout the country. But he also discovers an underground network of people just like him, The Sentries…

Careering along at top speed and punctuated by fights which are all the more hellish for the fact the individuals involved don’t have a liking for fights and they break out in the most unseemly of places (notably a septic tank), Vincent Must Die injects much needed dark humour (flirting with slapstick) into a razor-sharp, pre-apocalyptic societal portrait (based on an incredibly rich script whose underlayers come courtesy of Mathieu Naert). Carried by the formidable talent of its lead actor, and wonderfully enveloped by Manu Dacosse’s photography and John Kaced’s music, the film sucks the viewer into its many twists and turns, releasing enough in its uncompromising wake to make us reflect upon the state of the modern world. It’s a highly promising prototype from an exciting new generation of French filmmakers who cite Carpenter and Romero among their sources of inspiration.

Vincent Must Die is produced by Capricci Production, Bobi Lux and Frakas Productions, in co-production with Arte France Cinéma and Gapbusters. International sales fall to Goodfellas.

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(Translated from French)

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