THE OPINION OF THE “WORLD” – MUST SEE
After Death bag (2016, released in 2017), Damn ! is the second film that Emmanuel Parraud is filming in Reunion Island. The approach might seem anecdotal, it is not in the context of a French cinema which remains structurally very centralized, like most institutions. The few representations coming to us from overseas say a lot about the little connection that exists between the French collective imagination and its actual territory. Under these conditions, the interest of Parraud’s work is not so much to relocate to the island, nor to use it as a backdrop, but to bet on a real Reunionese cinema, modeled from local imaginaries and idiosyncrasies.
The mental universe of the characters was crucial in Death bag, whose protagonist was convinced to be the victim of a bad spell. Damn ! reshuffles the cards, but proceeds from the same desire to deliver fiction from all external rationality, to rely on a troubled psyche. Alix (Farouk Saidi) and his friend Marcellin (Aldo Dolphin) manage as partners a refreshment bar near a majestic natural site sheltering a high waterfall. The first sees this friendship slip through his fingers since the second has a crush on Dorothée (Marie Lanfroy), a singer from the metropolis. Here she left so dry for a tour in Europe, and Marcellin at the bottom of the abyss only thinks of joining him there. Alix feels his friend slipping away from him and, with him, something else, which seems to have to do with their native condition. Following a drunken argument, he falls into a territory of anguish, where the accents of nightmare are superimposed on reality.
By probing the disarray and the inner uneasiness of Alix, Emmanuel Parraud takes the path of the fantastic which, from a minority genre, has become in recent years, especially in Hollywood under the impetus of personalities like Jordan Peele, a suitable genre for metaphorizing hauntings weighing on minorities. Alix’s quest running after an elusive Marcellin, increasingly like a specter, is akin to an incoherent drift, where space and time scramble their coordinates. Glowing lights, strange presences, even ghostly mists emanating from volcanoes, unite to bend reality.
A hesitation arises as to the nature of these disturbances: are they the result of an external spell or a psychotic delirium? What is playing out in Alix is indeed of a hallucinatory order: a return of the colonial repressed which spurts out everywhere around him. In the conquering French flags planted here and there, the paternalistic tone of the unwilling police officers who came to inspect the surroundings of his refreshment bar. But also in the stages of its interior labyrinth, sometimes leading it through a museum of slavery, sometimes to make the human statue on a memorial invested by a group of angry tourists. Everywhere latent oppression, latent inequalities, the undermined relationship with the metropolis are resurfacing.
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