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Parc, by Arnaud des Pallières
Inspired by the 1969 novel "Bullet Park" written by John Cheever, "Parc", by Arnaud des Pallières is a strange and singular film, a kind of love it or hate it movie.
Georges Clou (Sergi Lopez) is a mouthwash salesman, living in a beautiful gated community in the South of France with his beloved wife and son. A wonderful house, a lovely neighbourhood… Life would seem idyllic for this family – if not for the traumas that the teenage son is going through. Meanwhile, a wealthy newcomer, Paul Marteau (Jean-Marc Barr), arrives in the community, laden with a trouble past and a troubling future.
The atmosphere is strange, almost oppressive. You do not feel comfortable while watching this film, especially if you have a tendency to claustrophobia. There is in fact a strong impression of confinement in this film. Sure, the characters live in a seemingly perfect suburb, protected from the riots they can see on TV during the all film. But these riots remind the presence of a bigger society, from which they are completely cut off. It’s as if they were living in a their own little world, disconnected from the rest of the planet. This impression of confinement is reinforced by the settings. You almost never see big open spaces, like a big field, or even the sky. There are always trees, walls, to prevent you and the characters to see the outside world.
But we could think that a community, even if it’s disconnected from the rest of the world, has its advantages, as a more important social life for example. Because of the name “community”, we could believe that the people have some bounds, some kind of solidarity you do not have in another place. But, on the contrary, the characters seem to be extremely lonely in this movie. First, you soon notice that it’s not friendship but interest that motivates these people to socialize. For example, at the beginning of the movie, Marteau organizes a party to get to know his neighbours. But for the inhabitants of Parc, this reception is more a business meeting than a friendly reception. They all come with the aim to win a new client for their different firms. The superficiality of these relations leaves a bitter taste…
And when they have deeper relationships, people from Parc seem to have strong issues to deal with it. They are just unable to talk together. The mother can’t find some nice words to comfort her son searching for answers to his sadness; the son does not answer his father trying to help him. All dialogs become just monologs, where one doesn't even see the character supposedly listening. The camera focuses on the one talking. A disturbing staging that reinforces that feeling of loneliness.
So, an enigmatic ambience, a strong feeling of confinement, almost no real dialogs… Add to this the disturbed chronology and you have a typical French contemporary movie. You may love it and say think that Des Pallières perfectly managed to criticize the society in a very artistic way. But you may also hate it, be bored by the long silences in the monologs, be lost and fully understand the overall point. In a word: really a hate it or love it movie.
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