French Film Festival Preview: The Clink of Ice

FILMINK checks out Bertrand Blier\'s new black comedy which succeeds - for the most part.

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Early in The Clink of Ice - How Much Do You Love Me? director Bertrand Blier\'s new black comedy - Irreversible actor Albert Dupontel introduces himself to a beleaguered, heartbroken writer, Charles (Jean Dujardin) as the character\'s cancer.

Although the film is based on an original screenplay (by its director), clearly one of the major inspirations for Blier\'s work is the Theatre of the Absurd, a 20th Century movement in which writers like Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot, Endgame) experimented with form and content, often laying their work with intended ambiguity and tragicomedy ridiculousness. 

For some of its length, The Clink of Ice seems interested in exploring the writer\'s life and experiences, investigating - and often undermining - the character\'s middle-aged melancholy with his sometimes-playful, often-aggressive relationship with his disease.   

Rather than adopting the strictly formulaic \'realism\' of other contemporary comedies, The Clink of Ice aims for a more overblown hysteria to its comedy, sometimes in the form of characters breaking the fourth wall as well as the film\'s deliberately histrionic touches: the initial-orchestral score opens with a heavy nod to Hitchcock\'s favourite composer Bernard Hermann (Psycho, North by Northwest) to accompany the cancer\'s intrusion to the writer\'s idyllic country estate.

Perhaps these earlier sequences could be accused of having surprisingly few laughs for a comedy, with the filmmakers often repeating a joke (the concept of two grown men fighting like children is funny at first, but less so with repetition) or stepping on it entirely with the film\'s loud, bombastic style, but these sequences have a degree of post-modern verve and distinction.

Although it is strange to see an ailing, heartbroken, struggling artist with a well-toned six pack (Dujardin is best known to international audiences for his series of James Bond spoofs, OSS 117), but the comedian/actor makes for a suitably tortured hero, giving a physicality and vigour to his blowhard.

Dujardin\'s chemistry with the wily and unnervingly eccentric Dupontel helps to provide the film with a sense of energy and vitality, with the relationship often modifying from sensitivity to cruelty. Neither simply Biblical tormentor nor sentimental redeemer, Dupontel\'s characterisation is fused with a genuinely unsettling intensity and sense of the baroque, whether the cancer is laughing over a bullet wound he has sustained or sharing a drink with his victim.

Unfortunately, even at 97 minutes (comparatively short by the standards of most contemporary comedies), the film\'s central concept still feels overstretched, especially given the filmmakers\' increasing disinterest in the central relationship of the production.  

Instead, the film diffuses these sequences and attempts to resolve the film with thriller conceits and periphery characters, which not only undermine the film\'s earlier playfulness and fantasy but also transform the spiritual menace of the cancer character into an extremely feeble threat. 

For much of its length, The Clink of Ice is fascinating. It is a pity that the filmmakers were unwilling to explore some of the philosophical and emotional ramifications of the story\'s dynamic.

The Clink of Ice will be showing at the Alliance Française French Film Festival. The festival is set to play in Sydney (March 8-27), Melbourne (March 9-27), Brisbane (March 16-April 3), Canberra (March 16-April 3), Perth (March 23-April 10), and Adelaide (March 23-April 10).

For information on specific screenings, you can check on the Festival\'s official website.

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