AFI FEST 2011: Carré Blanc
My Flickchart Ranking: #276
If ever I had a sweet spot when it came to film, television or books it would be in the dystopian genre. Usually you’ll have an oppressive government or force that has managed to subjugate it’s people and one person who awakes in the nightmare. In some of the more action-packed films in the genre, he’ll go on a crusade against “the man,” gunning down those who maintain the status quo. Carré Blanc opts for reflection and the attempt to find one’s place in a cruel system. Sweet spot indeed!
In Carré Blanc the population is on the decline. Folks just aren’t having babies anymore. Loudspeakers repeat the dwindling population numbers at every hour, as well as suggest to everyone that now is the perfect time to have children. Meanwhile, the dead get packed up and shipped to a processing plant where they get turned into the next day’s meat. We start the story as our main character Philippe gets sent to a boarding school to learn about the ways of the world. As he traverses the harsh landscape of growing up and eventually finds his bride to be, it becomes apparent that this system can’t last forever.
The atmosphere of this film is striking, going for bleak with a cruel comical edge. There are a few scenes in which Philippe interviews perspective employees that’s gleefully dark and which I quite enjoyed. The one that comes to mind is a scenario in which Philippe brings in some corporate goons to give them a re-evaluation. He presents them with one bottle of a beverage and leaves them be. As the goons beat the crap out of each other, we’re made aware that there are straws on the table. Likewise, there’s a scenario in which a prospective employee has ten seconds to answer the phone that’s ringing, a nondescript phone that’s amidst 30 other nondescript phones.
Sami Bouajila does a great job here as Philippe, balancing the cold and calculated corporate persona with his rather horrific past. At first it’s tough to get behind his character, what with all the cruelty he showcases, but as the film progresses we get an idea as to why he’s that way and we are able to sympathize.
And then there’s this subplot featuring a Parking Garage Clerk that’s juxtaposed against Philippe’s struggle against the system. The Clerk has to smile at everyone who comes into the garage because it’s proven that a “welcoming smile puts people at ease.” When he’s done with his shift, he has to return home to his little boy, who doesn’t seem too thrilled to be around. Whereas everyone around the Clerk talks about how great it is to have children, he’s miserable and tries to hide his at every turn.
I could probably blather on further about what I liked about this film. There’s a lot here to deconstruct and it’s an interesting look into a possible dystopian future. This is hardly an action-packed film, so if that aspect of the genre is most appealing to you then you might want to look elsewhere. For the more thoughtful look at a bleak future, this is your film.