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En attendant le deluge
cast: Damien Odoul, Pierre Richard, Anna Mouglalis, Eugene Durif, and Ingrid Astier

director: Damien Odoul

78 minutes (15) 2004
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Andrew Hook
A wealthy old man (Pierre Richard) discovers that he is suffering from an incurable disease. He decides he wants to see one final performance of his favourite play, 'The Myth Of Dionysus', before he dies, and so invites a theatrical troupe to his chateau to stage it for him. What he gets is a bunch of prima donnas and misfits, who are incapable of organising a performance, and therefore the old man stages something for them: his own death.

Odoul has been likened to Bunuel as a director, but the comparisons are not particularly apt. Bunuel succeeds as a product of his time, when few of his contemporaries were producing anything similar to his work. But once the connection is made between the style of En attendant le deluge (aka: Après nous le deluge - After We're Gone) - the obvious similarities being the segmented plot, humour, and bourgeoisie undertones - it becomes difficult to watch the movie in isolation. And as a satirist Odoul falls short of Bunuel's bite. What we get instead are interlinked vignettes that never manage to gel.

Despite these reservations, some of the individual performances are excellent. Anna Mouglalis is often superb as a tortured actress, desperately in love with the producer who has already spurned her. Damien Odoul takes a central role as the play's producer, but his frequent childish outbursts quickly wear thin. Pierre Richard is often beguiling as the old man, but often his role seems understated. Indeed, a highlight of the movie is where he and Odoul 'improvise' some music with voice and piano - they manage to break through their characters' insecurities and false bravado to produce something quite unique.

En attendant le deluge is a movie open to interpretation. For example, it could be said, due to the frequent bed-hopping and sexual references, that the movie is an analogy on sex. The old man needing a last shot at stimulation before he dies; yet despite all those around him performing their 'act', he eventually has to do it himself: a form of theatrical masturbation. But then again, maybe this is too deep a reading for a movie that doesn't allow you to get close to it.

The film simply tries too hard to be inventive and different, and in doing so loses its ability to engage. The cumulative effect of its vignettes of comedic desperation, combined with the knowledge that we are not intended to get to know these characters beyond their caricatures, means that we become indifferent to the screen. The final, lingering shot of an open gate had me hoping - almost praying - that this was the end of a thankfully short film. At least in that respect Odoul didn't outstay his welcome.

DVD extras include missing scenes, a short companion piece to the movie, and the original trailer.
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