On the occasion of its 700th issue, legendary French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma has partnered with the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), New York’s premiere French cultural center, to present a special two-part CinéSalon film series. The series, which continues this month, features a selection of rarely shown treasures from French film history with a showcase of top picks that have been championed in the pages of the magazine. Indiewire is pleased to be partnering with FIAF and Cahiers du Cinéma to present reviews of films in the series originally published in the magazine and available here in English for the first time with translations by Nicholas Elliott, the magazine’s New York correspondent.
This review of “The Rendez-Vous of Déjà Vu” is by Cyril Béghin, a regular contributor to the magazine since 2003 and a collaborator of the choreographer Valeria Apicella. It was published in May 2013. The film screens at FIAF on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Since there’s no work to be had, why not go on vacation? That’s the conclusion Truquette comes to when she gets turned down by a Paris temp agency. She heads south to the beach with four friends. Since there’s an economic crisis, let’s reduce vacation time! A government decree radicalizes austerity and the group of friends is supposed to come home before they even arrive. You can’t have anarchist gags without a dose of nonsense, which hides a form of confrontation.
With its improvised summer starting point that feels like a one-way ticket, “The Rendez-Vous of Déja Vu” is crawling with jokes embedded in jokes, slapstick derivations, and false-bottom comedy that generates as many promises of collapse. Why else would you serve soup in a perforated plate during a burlesque dinner scene? It isn’t enough for the museum guard Hector to fall in love with Truquette when she passes behind an antique female bust at the Louvre: the young woman also has to whip up some cocktails with her friend Charlotte in a hidden chamber behind a museum gallery, playing at chopping pineapples by dropping an axe balanced on her forehead. Which doesn’t make much sense beyond slotting in an additional zone of disorder where one doesn’t expect it, then moving on elsewhere.
In his first feature film, Antonin Peretjatko has concentrated the comedic knowledge he has accumulated in over ten years of short films—alongside newcomers Vimala Pons and Vincent Macaigne, we are even reunited with Thomas Schmitt and Marie-Lorna Vaconsin, actors from his shorts “French Kiss” and “Paris Monopole.” Aside from being a delightful success, the film continues to advance in a territory basically deserted by recent French cinema, with the exception of Quentin Dupieux: that of non-naturalist comedy, in which burlesque comedy is not limited to actors hamming it up and the flood of nonsensical gags are not wiped out by the daydream argument—as far as vocal and visual logorrhea go, “The Rendez-Vous of Déja Vu”‘s wild and woolly inventiveness is the broke but healthy reverse of Michel Gondry’s sickly summation “Mood Indigo.”
Peretjatko tries everything at every level of his film: satire, parody, slow-burn humor, joke inserts, puns, and non-sequiturs, with a taste for rhythm and enthused acceleration whose many misfires don’t jam the machine. In the same gesture, he calls forth innumerable ghosts of cinema: a nod to “Breathless” (surrounded by Bastille Day tanks on the Place de l’Étoile, Truquette doesn’t try to sell the Herald Tribune to soldiers on duty but “La Commune!”), a whiff of Rozier and echoes of Rohmer, with a touch of schlock comedy director Max Pécas here and there—the running gag about the “Guide to Seduction” is more like Pécas’s “Les Branchés à Saint-Tropez” than Rozier’s “Du côté d’Orouët,” but the book winds up in the fire, pushing thick smoke into the villa where Hector and Truquette are reunited, creating a parallel to Peter Sellers and Claudine Longet’s foam dance at the end of “The Party.”
This vast arsenal is organized by a jolting freedom of montage which marries anarchist comedy with a deep ethic. In our issue on young French filmmakers, Antonin Peretjatko’s slogan was: “Cut everything that doesn’t stick out.” By following “Rendez-Vous of Déja Vu”‘s toy guillotine (which doesn’t cut but actually does cut—a finger, an arm, and finally a head), one understands that this praise of the disheveled has more serious correspondences. You need a beautiful rigor to keep up such a cadence of collapses, and belief in the virtue of absurd paroxysms.
When Hector, Pator and Charlotte’s Picaresque swerves lead them to fire at cops on the way to the beach, one thinks of the violence Godard put into “Weekend”: the overgrown kids in “Rendez-Vous of Déja Vu” wander in an atmosphere of civil war, where nonchalance is settled at gunpoint. They may not be enraged for all that, but in its very lightness the film is traversed by a healthy anger.
In describing Mack Sennett, Robert Desnos wrote that “burlesque is the most disconcerting form of lyricism.” ”The Rendez-Vous of Déja Vu” is welcome evidence of Desnos’s observation.
Originally published in Cahiers du cinéma issue 689, May 2013. Translated by Nicholas Elliott.