For the first time in the director’s chair in three years, Diane Kurys has brought actress Sylvie Testud’s best selling novel ‘C’est le Métier qui Rentre‘ to cinematic audiences. Essentially Arrête ton Cinéma is a film based on a book about a film about a screenplay. And if that were not complicated enough Testud herself takes the lead role alongside Josiane Balasko and Zabou Bretiman camping it up as two eccentric film producers. The idea of lampooning the film industry and exposing it’s many absurdites is nothing new. Barton Fink, the award-winning black comedy by the Coen Brothers is a case in point. But there is nothing exceptionnel on offer in Kury’s film. In the absence of any new revelations into the cupidity and shallowness of film-making, Kurys has gambled on larger than life, cartoon characters who dish up the same comic routine on a tedious, repetative loop.
Sybille (Testud) is a successful actress who dreams of directing a film based on her own screenplay. She is approached by oddball film producers Ingrid (Breitman) and Brigitte (Balasko) who have their own distinct ideas on how to improve the screenplay and who to cast in the lead roles. Pushing her acting career and her family to one side, Sybille throws herself into rewriting her screenplay and executing the changes demanded by the producers. But when it becomes clear no-one wants to invest in the film, Sybille’s dream fast becomes a nightmare as she gets dragged deeper and deeper into Brigitte and Ingrid’s crazy world.
If the success of Testud’s novel was based on a certain offbeat, self-depracating humour this has been forgotten in the screen adaptation. There is too much resting on the appeal of Ingrid and Brigitte as the film’s comic motor. Breitman’s Ingrid is lost in an assortment of ridiculous outfits and childlike tantrums while Balasko flips unconvincingly from maternal to manic in scene after scene. Once the basic premise is established, the film has nowhere to go. And it definitely feels like Testud had an axe to grind. Aside from the obvious attempt to evoke sympathy for Sybille the artist, who sees her precious screenplay cynically comercialised, there are several in-jokes which will be meaningless to the average cinemagoer. It all feels rather self-indulgent and pointless and worse of all, unfunny.
Breitman is a prolific actress. Over the past 18 months she has appeared five films including Olivier Baroux’s Entre Amis
alongside Daniel Auteuil and Kheiron’s Nous Trois ou Rien
. But her performance here appears forced and uncomfortable to watch. This is Balasko’s second film in as many months. Her Ingrid is a huge physical change from the role as concierge in December’s Le Grand Partage
and is yet again a prime example of form over content.
Kury’s directing career got off to a great start with 1977’s Diabolo Menthe and her films have continued to win awards over the intervening years. But judging by Arrête ton Cinéma, comedy is not a natural fit for her talents as a director.