Review by Sean Boelman
The typical festival midnight movie is not what one would generally associate with the prestigious Festival de Cannes, and so it only makes sense that the Cannes midnight section is a different breed. Like a somehow more demented version of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Jean-Christophe Meurisse’s Bloody Oranges is about as messed up as they come.
The film follows a group of people whose lives intersect around a rock dance competition. There is a lot more to the story than that, but its surprises are best left unspoiled. It’s a movie designed to intentionally shock, and it will undeniably leave some viewers feeling disgusted (for better or worse), but it’s definitely a very challenging film at the least.
It does take a lot of time for the movie to get moving as all of the different pieces have to fall into place, but once they do around the one hour mark, the film is absolutely captivating from there. Most viewers will find the more graphic moments in the final act to be hard to swallow, but that’s clearly Meurisse’s point in presenting them.
There is definitely some political commentary in the movie about corruption, and this is interesting, but this takes a back seat to the two other more shocking storylines. One, about how the economy exploits the lower class, is surprisingly sorrowful, and the other, about sexual assault, packs a brutal punch.
Perhaps the biggest issue with this film is that it doesn’t juggle all of its characters effectively. There is one storyline that is clearly dominant because it is the one that grabs the viewer’s attention most easily. This comes at the expense of the other, more subtle storylines that make up the plot.
The absolute highlight of the movie’s cast is Lilith Grasmug, who gives a performance that is absolutely energetic and angry. She commands the screen, particularly in the final act, which was undoubtedly the most challenging portion of her role. The rest of the cast, including Olivier Saladin, Lorella Cravotta, and Alexandre Steiger are all good, but this is very much Grasmug’s show.
Meurisse very successfully captures the balance that he was trying to find between the grimier aspects of the film and the glossy visual style that the movie utilizes. While it may not seem like it at first, it’s a very deliberately-crafted film that has some really interesting things going on beneath the surface.
Bloody Oranges certainly isn’t going to be for everyone, but its very aggressive approach to the midnight movie is going to find its audience. It’s certainly one of the most unique movies to debut on this year’s festival midnight circuit so far.
Bloody Oranges screened at the Cannes Film Festival, which ran from July 7-17.