I went with 2 French friends. They've been complaining for months about the French movies which make it to the screen in the UK. At the end of Mammuth they were speechless! And I just felt embarrassed for them. The mutual masturbation scene between 2 ageing men best encapsulates the quality of the movie. And also suggests that the once great Depardieu should perhaps hang up his acting shoes before the French invite him to do "Mr Bean" or a "Benny Hill" which I have no doubt he would now accept!
moviemoghul (Unverified), 21/06/11
In the opening scenes of Mammuth, the audience is thrust, face first, into a slaughterhouse, brought eye to eye with pig carcasses being hauled, hurled, sawed and sliced up. Follow this with a lingering, awkwardly angled close up of Gerard Depardieu, as Serge, otherwise known as Mammuth, and the mood of the piece seems dark. Observing this hunched, vest clad, hairnet wearing man mountain, there’s no indication of where this film is going. Moments later however, the premise of the story is somewhat revealed, and the sense of foreboding is lifted. It’s Serge’s work leaving party (for want of a better word for this dismal, cheerless ritual), and the sight of a tiny office, uncomfortably crammed with his colleagues, still fully decked out in their blood splattered overalls, rubber gloves and pig flesh-flecked wellies, creating a cacophony of combined crisp crunching as the boss stiltingly reads his less than heartfelt farewell speech to Mammuth, makes for sustained mirth. From this point we know we are allowed to laugh out loud.
We go on a motorbike road trip with Serge, seeking out the missing payslips and testimonials he needs from his previous places of work, in order to legitimise his retirement fund claim. Along the way there are indeed numerous laugh out loud moments, such as the B&B dining room scene where the assembled, bored, silent, seemingly emotionless business men are all reduced to blubbering wrecks as they listen to one of their number, on the phone, consoling his child about his absence from home.
But this is no simple comedy. The story takes us on a bewildering rollercoaster of highs and lows, comedy and tragedy, from farce and hilarity to cringing awkwardness and into some truly painful places, best characterised by the apparition of a tragically lost love, who repeatedly hovers hauntingly at the edges of scenes and adds her voice to the narrative, serving to fill in some of the details of Serge’s story.
The circumstances of this slow witted, lumbering beast as he faces the unfamiliarity of a routine-free existence, and the challenges of the adventure he embarks on, provide many opportunities for the filmmakers to test our reactions and toy with our emotions. Mammuth, pacing his house, forlornly staring from the windows, rocking and muttering like a distressed, caged animal, is both disturbing, yet confusingly funny.
It’s testament to Depardieu’s acting skill that despite ourselves, we grow to feel warmth for this essentially unsympathetic character. As we ride with him from encounter to encounter, there’s a growing hope that this journey of discovery, understanding, closure and awakening, will ultimately result in a new-found happiness.
Mammuth combines footage shot using an old school ‘home movie’ style, in which the scenes are overly bright, juddering, blurred, sped up and indistinct, with long, static, soundless studies, uncomfortable angles, warts and all close-ups and carefully framed vignettes. The refreshingly unusual, old fashioned visual style is supported by a soundtrack of fast paced music, interspersed with highly significant sound effects, voices from the past, spoken thoughts and dialogue, all of which allow the audience to be both voyeur into Mammuth’s life and past, and at times, in the moment with him. The result is a 360 degree experience of the humour and farce, tragedy, pathos and warmth of this weird and wonderful French film.
Liz Buckle (DI Reviewer), 13/06/11
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