Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Hedgehog (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Hedgehog 

For those who feel that they have had too much testosterone in their recent visual diet given the thrusts and kicks of "Drive" and "Warrior", "The Hedgehog" is an easy antidote.

The film focuses on dysfunctional people in a Paris townhouse complex. There is Paloma, a precocious 11-year old who wants to commit suicide (Garance Le Guillermic), The superintendent who is "the hedgehog", (Josiane Belasco) and Kakuro, a Japanese widower (Togo Igawa). This is a quiet wandering film, part "Harold & Maude" and part "Paris, J'taime" with a dash of Woody Allen.

 There is a lot going on and at times it seems like a John Cassavetes film made for a short attention span, but it is none the less smooth as a character study.

Paloma, who does seem a bit like Bud Cort in his famous role, goes around with a movie camera and hordes her mother's prescription drugs. She slinks around every corner and crevice with her little oval glasses, looking cute as a button. Paloma draws, paints and comes up with existential quips. She is quite adorable to the point of invariably getting her glasses tangled in her long frizzy blonde hair. I wonder why she wants to end it? At 12? She certainly doesn't seem tortured at all. Paloma walks around with her camera in a cheerful glide and looks forward to her death with the enthusiasm of a Sweet Sixteen party.  For a while it seems as if Michael Haneke was behind the camera directing an episode of Eloise. Strange.

Then there is Renee, the super who is antisocial and glum having only her cats to keep her company. Renee sits and reads her classic novels eating dark chocolate. Then a Mr. Ozu arrives: the widower in white. Mr. Ozu is gracious, Asian and content and doesn't his prim elegance make him ever so mysterious? Mr. Ozu is the most accepting person in the film and his plain enigmatic quality is a relief from the smirking  Paloma. Ozu falls for the brooding and melancholy Renee, seeing her for the elegant romantic that she supposedly is, but I clearly didn't  see evidence of this. Renee is kind, she is well meaning, but romantic? Not really. 

Under less capable hands this movie would feel too loose and silly, The Cabbage Patch Kids guide to suicide even, but director Mona Achache, pulls the camera in close enough to the other characters so that we don't become too annoyed by Little Miss Sartre across the hall.

The film works best as a kind of live action story in the manner of "The Illusionist". We marvel at the sheer number of distracted  goofs all contained in one place and the film is kaliedoscopic enough as to vary our attention and not get weighed down by too many gloomy Gusses at one time. 

Despite the Haneke-hearted tween with all her trappings, this film is  sweet enough to swallow. In the end "The Hedgehog" remains a sugar pill with only a slight taste of almonds. No psychiatrist necessary.

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