My French Film Festival review: Struggle for Life
Politics via comedy7
Ryan Gumbley | On 05, Feb 2018
Director: Antonin Peretjatko
Cast: Vincent Macaigne, Vimala Pons, Mathieu Amalric
Watch Struggle for Life online in the UK: MUBI UK / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / FilmDoo / Google Play
Struggle for Life is one of 13 feature films released online as part of the 2018 My French Film Festival. Movies are available to buy and rent, with a selection of shorts available to stream for free. For more information, click here.
Despite being in his mid-30s, Marc Châtaigne (Macaigne) is about to start his first day as an intern at the Ministry of Standards in the French government. Sending up the French political class and their attitude towards French overseas territories, Struggle for Life sees Marc sent all the way to French Guiana in South America to oversee the creation of the first indoor ski slope in the Amazon. The ultimate goal being to boost tourism. It’s all as ridiculous as it sounds and director Antonin Peretjatko keeps the comedy as broad as possible throughout.
Upon reaching French Guiana, Marc meets a woman named Tarzan (Pons) who’s also working as an intern for the National Forestry Office. The film certainly benefits from the double act comedic formula that becomes possible once Tarzan is introduced. Despite a few funny gags and pratfalls in the first act, though, the Chataigne character doesn’t have the substance to carry a film of this kind alone. It’s not long before Marc and Tarzan are lost in an Amazonian rainforest, chopping the heads off snakes and cavorting with forest-dwelling guerillas.
The state of the territory’s tourism is the last thing they’re the worried about, as a fight for survival begins in the heart of the dense rainforest. When they both inadvertently drink aphrodisiacs, bubbling sexual tension overflows and the film gives us one of its best sequences of physical comedy. Not every comedic effort is so successful, however. Jokes fall flat more often than they land, even if some of the jibes at the French colonialist mentality and even the state of emergency back home work well.
Early on we see quite a lot of Mathieu Amalric as Galgaric; that he disappears so quickly and barely features again is one of the most baffling parts of Struggle for Life. It lends to the overall messy structure of the film, and even the chaos at the heart of the comedy can’t quite be used to excuse it. Running just 99 minutes long, the film still manages to hang around a little longer than it needs to.
You’ll get a few laughs out of Struggle for Life, and if you care about such things, the sharp political and sociological edge of the humour can’t be faulted. It’s just a shame that the humour falls short so often, while the sloppiness of the plot ultimately wears you down. However, there’s just enough here to suggest that Peretjatko is capable of bigger and better things going forward.
Struggle for Life is available on MUBI UK, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.