Using an area’s name as a title for a movie might be an indication of directorial confidence, but it may also suggest a filmmaker trying to bite off more than they can chew. How does one portray a district with all its quirks and vibrancies? That’s the question Modi Barry and Cedric Ido must have asked themselves while making their debut feature La vie de Chateau. Presented in the 1-2 Competition at the 33rd Warsaw Film Festival, the picture feels like a faithful portrayal of everyday life of working-class people living nearby Chateau d’Eau metro station in Paris. The film’s fast pace, witty dialogues and freaky story may attract some viewers, but Chateau’s lack of narrative cohesion will be off-putting for those who just wanted to feel the pulse of the neighbourhood.
Charles (Jacky Ido) is a thirtysomething self-described entrepreneur, the head of a bunch of men whose job is to promote a local beauty salon to women passing by. With the younger guys from the street looking up to him, we observe his admirable king-of-the-pack position, while his burst of anger when he discovers that his supposedly one-of-a-kind jacket is just a regular, worthless rag shows his overzealous care for elegance and class. He’ll find himself in a bit of a trouble when his employees start questioning his authority and the salon’s manager schemes to replace him with another street solicitor, Bebe. A conflict arises as Bebe’s style of doing business (he’s more into sporty tank tops than fancy shirts and jackets) is different to Charles’. The looming beef has its moments, but at some point the motif completely disappears. Much like other plotlines in the film, it stays unresolved.
Other inhabitants of Chateau are depicted with little to no nuance. There’s the owner of the salon, Dan, who asks Charles to spy on his wife and see if she’s cheating on him; there’s Moussa, trying to convince Charles to do business with him. Some bits and pieces are presented as a backstory for the characters, but the rapid jumping from one person to another makes it hard to focus and care for either of them. There’s a compelling dynamic between Charles and a Kurdish barber, whose salon the main protagonist wants to buy. Barry and Ido offer an interesting take on the lives of Parisian immigrants, juxtaposing the Kurdish poet as an exiled man unable to cope with the happy-go-lucky Charles, who roams the city as a proud Parisian.
The movie’s upbeat and playful atmosphere may attract some viewers wanting to take a break from more serious works on the festival circuit, but its predictability and lack of clear structure makes it hard to say what the directors were getting at. Playing it safe is not Charles’ modus operandi, but the directors didn’t follow his style and took an easy way out framing the film as a comedy of errors, where coincidences spring up like mushrooms and one bad decision leads to another.
At times, the score is perhaps too hammy, trying to suggest to the audience when to laugh. The mostly hand-held camera diligently follows the characters, offering us a lot of close-ups on actors’ faces, while not that much time is spent on the streets, which is an odd choice for a movie about a city’s area. But then, what’s a neighbourhood without its inhabitants? Just a few blocks of flats indeed.
FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Călin Boto is a Romanian emergent film critic and the editor-in-chief of Film Menu, a film magazine edited by students of the Film University in National University of Film and Drama in Bucharest (UNATC). He has written articles for several cultural publications such as Dilema Veche,Dissolved Magazine, SUB25 and he coordinates Film Menu’s weekly cineclub. At the moment he’s working on a bachelor's degree on the films and film criticism of Jonas Mekas.
Barbara Majsa was born and raised in Hungary, but currently resides in Sweden and attends Stockholm University for Cinema Studies. She has worked as a journalist since 2009, and has covered several film festivals. Barbara is the managing editor at Cinema Scandinavia, where she interviews film-makers and focuses her work on artistic and cultural products that reflect upon society - films concerning social, societal, economic and political issues.
Yulia Kuzischina is a film journalist, based in Moscow. She studied visual culture at Higher School of Economics and later started to write for two film-related websites, RussoRosso and Kinomania.ru. Currently she also works at a film sales company Ant!pode Sales & Distribution. Her main field of interest is Eastern European cinema.
Tomáš Hudák is a programmer and a film critic based in Bratislava, Slovakia. Programming at independent cultural centre A4 – Space for contemporary culture, which focus on challenging and experimental art, is his main occupation throughout a year. He is also associated with IFF Cinematik in Pieštany, Bratislava IFF, and Film Festival 4 Elements in Banská Štiavnica. Regularly writing for film magazine Kinečko, his texts also appeared in other publications such as Senses of Cinema, Tess Magazine etc. In past, he worked as a film archivist at Slovak Film Institute and his archival research resulted in two papers on local film history.
Daria Badior is a film critic and a Culture Editor of LB.ua, one of Ukraine’s biggest online newspapers. Focuses on writing about contemporary Ukrainian cinema. Also she co-curates a project on LB.ua named Short-list about young Ukrainian filmmakers. Since 2017 takes part in selecting films for Kyiv Film Critics Week, a new film festival held at the end of October. A member of FIPRESCI.
Łukasz Mańkowski Half of the Asian Cinema focused blog ‘Referat Filmowy’, Japanese Studies and Film Theory graduate from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, specializing in Asian Film. Occasionally photographer, translator and theatre-film journalist who simply loves ramen. Previously member of 5 Flavours Film Festival People’s Jury, FEFF Udine Student Campus and EIFF Student Critics Competition.
TUTORS of FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Yoana Pavlova is a Bulgarian writer, researcher, and programmer currently based in Paris.Her field of work includes cinema, VR, digital culture, and the New East. She is the foundingeditor of Festivalists.com (a playform for experimental media criticism), with bylines fornumerous print and online publications in Bulgarian, English, and French. Contributor to thefollowing books: Cinemas of Paris (2016, St Andrews Film Studies), Eastern Promises (2014,Festival Internacional de Cine de Donostia – San Sebastián), The Bulgarian Nouvelle Vague(2012, Edno).
Tommaso Tocci is based in Italy, where he works as a film critic and translator covering filmfestivals across Europe for international publications. He has also worked for BerlinaleTalents and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he currently serves as Co-Programmer for the Saas-Fee Film Festival in Switzerland.