Where would we all be without George Orwell’s pioneering Nineteen Eighty-Four novel? Well, we wouldn’t have that Apple advert, the Big Brother franchise, that Jam song, inescapable governmental surveillance…the list goes on. Along with Huxley’s Brave New World, it’s probably the most thematically significant and influential novels ever. Timelessly looking forward to a woeful future that is ever increasingly swirling in with the present. Oh hi, dystopia!
Jean-Baptiste Léonetti’s debut feature Carré Blanc has Orwell-light written all over it. Set in a indeterminable location and time, protagonist Philippe is a product of an unknown oppressive Capitol. Left as an orphan after his mother’s suicide, he is moulded into a ‘productive citizen’ of the state, a quotidian example of decorum, grace and unquestionable authority. Working as an employer for the totalitarian regime, Philippe struggles to see eye-to-eye with his doubting wife Marie who is desperate for the pair to break free from the ball and chain society, at whatever cost.
Elliptically assembled, Léonetti doesn’t bother too much with explanation nor plot drive. Instead, the filmmaker is committed to aesthetically crafting a world which blends the harsh and light dimensions of the sci-fi thriller with the greys of the existential avant-garde. The result is stunning, with organically subversive cinematography from David Nissen. Not forgetting the emotively vacuumed sound from composer Evgueni Galperine (who also worked on The Hunger Games, I’ll have you know).
So, Léonetti has the form of dystopia down, but what of the scathing satirical critique that goes along with it? This is the film’s problem. Although it may have the ability to bejewel our ears and eyes, and tips its hat to black Haneke-humor in places, Carré Blanc doesn’t actually have a lot to say, shout, or even mutter. Clocking in at a meagre seventy-seven minutes, the lack of substance is quickly forgotten, as are some of the film’s certifiably nutty moments.
Although it might not be a futurist classic, Carré Blanc is a defiantly confident and rewarding debut from an auteur in the making.