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CANNES 2024 Directors’ Fortnight

Review: Eat The Night

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- CANNES 2024: Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel launch into a bold and highly ambitious film about youth, the virtual and reality, but the piece as a whole doesn't quite live up to its promise

Review: Eat The Night
Théo Cholbi and Erwan Kepoa Falé in Eat The Night

"This is where I live and I feel better here than in my own life." This enchanting place, where you can kill at every turn in wonderfully coloured landscapes, where space, weightlessness and time are abolished, is the Darknoon video game that teenager Apolline and her older brother Pablo have been playing for nine years in their ordinary bungalow in a dull harbour town. But the game will come to a definitive end at the next winter solstice, in sixty days' time.

There is a floating smell of end-of-the-world and addiction in Eat The Night [+see also:
interview: Caroline Poggi and Jonathan…
film profile
]
by Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel, presented at the Directors' Fortnight at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. A resolutely modern film with a commendable audacity, the French duo have set the bar much higher (creating a spectacular video game for the occasion) than for Jessica Forever [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, their first feature which was already particularly out of the ordinary, but as the saying goes, sometimes “he who embraces too much, embraces poorly.”

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"I wouldn't recommend using force. It will turn against you." Apolline (Lila Gueneau) knows the game like the back of her hand, but what happens in the real world is very different from the magical territory of Darknoon's avatars and creatures. Pablo (Théo Cholbi) is a drug dealer, making his own products in an isolated building in the forest, an activity with which he quickly associates Night (Erwan Kepoa Falé), the two young men experiencing a passionate love affair that inevitably puts Apolline on the sidelines. But the deals stir up the anger of a violent rival group. Danger lurks and strikes as the countdown to the end of Darknoon ticks away, Pablo having promised Appoline he'd be there on the last day of the game...

Highly physical and intensely paced, Eat The Night moves skillfully between its fascinating virtual universe (notably with a breathtaking apocalyptic finale) and the very nihilistic everyday life in which the protagonists struggle. The filmmakers' conceptual metaphorical subtext comes through loud and clear, and indeed our contemporary world and its young people are in a bad way (threat of climate extinction, brutal communication, escapism in the virtual world and drugs, etc.). However, with the exception of a few sequences, the film doesn't exploit all the narrative possibilities offered by Darknoon, using it brilliantly but repetitively, and above all the dynamic ‘drug war’ part turns out to be very banal and caricatured, not to say implausible. Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel may even have imagined this reality on purpose, as if everything were a vast video game, but from the point of view of the simple spectator, the attempt, despite its high ambition and disparate qualities, is disappointing overall. This will no doubt not prevent the film from finding its audience and its makers from continuing their trajectory as filmmakers with a ‘cult’ label.

Eat The Night was produced by Agat Films & Ex Nihilo and Atelier de Production, and co-produced by Arte France Cinéma. The film will be internationally sold by mk2 Films.

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(Translated from French)

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