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HomeReview‘Animale’: Cannes Review

‘Animale’: Cannes Review

Dir/scr: Emma Benestan. France/Belgium/Saudi Arabia 2024. 98mins

A younger girl takes poisonous masculinity by the horns in Animale, a clunky thriller/horror drama with a touch of cattle-wrangling Western, Mediterranean type. As this would possibly recommend, hybrid could be very a lot the time period for Emma Benestan’s second function – not least when it comes to the metamorphosis theme that’s its most lurid side. Set within the bull-racing tradition of the Camargue area of southern France, this can be a handsomely executed style piece from the Algerian-French writer-director of 2021’s Fragile (a.okay.a.Arduous Shell, Mushy Shell), also referred to as editor to Abdellatif Kechiche. 

Over-familiar premise

Animale boasts visible confidence to spare and a compelling, energetic lead efficiency from Oulaya Amamra, who beforehand appeared in Fragile. Disappointingly, although, the movie by no means lives as much as its daring scene-setting, falling right into a sample of obviousness which is able to depart viewers feeling a number of steps forward of its heroine proper as much as a crazy ending. Horror followers with a penchant for feminist narratives would possibly give Animale some area of interest presence, however the over-familiar premise and narrative clunkiness may even see it battle past that.

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The milieu is definitely hanging – the marshlands of the Camargue area close to Arles, famously celebrated on display in Albert Lamorisse’s 1953 White Mane. Twenty-something Nejma (Amamra, a charismatic common in French cinema since her career-making lead in Houda Benyamina’s 2016 Divines) works on a cattle ranch, and is coaching to be a bull runner in native occasions the place contestants try to catch trophies whereas dodging offended cattle. It’s an uncommon occupation for a lady, the movie makes clear, however Nejma is fabricated from powerful stuff, shrugging off the ostensibly fond sexist banter of her male friends. Her mom (a sympathetic flip from Marinette Rafai) is worried for her – as effectively she is perhaps, as Nejma is surrounded by macho boors. The exceptions are ranch boss Léonard (Claude Chaballier), a gruff however benign patriarch, and his homosexual son Tony (Damien Rebattel), presently recovering from a leg wound.

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Nejma makes a hesitant however competent debut within the ring, to common approval from the lads. However issues take a darkish flip when she accompanies them on an evening experience and is left alone, drunk and excessive on capsules, to take her possibilities in a area of bulls. She wakes the following morning, uncertain what has occurred – though viewers gained’t want the movie’s semi-hallucinatory flashbacks to determine it out. Quickly, mysterious animal innards are being discovered within the neighborhood – and gored human our bodies. And as Nejma more and more identifies with the bulls’ standpoint, she begins altering in methods slightly overtly signalled by the title. 

There’s little within the general narrative that’s not already considerably acquainted, like the subject of the younger girl decided to interrupt into a historically male sport, handled extra matter-of-factly in Lola Quivoron’s 2022 dirt-racing film Rodeo; whereas uncanny transformation appears to be in vogue in present French cinema, given Cannes hits Titane and The Animal Kingdom. The place Animale is indisputably robust is in sketching the torocentric tradition of the Camargue – its well-known white horses additionally function prominently – and the masculine cult of taking up black bulls. The experience of the runners and riders is dazzlingly evoked within the opening sequence, the place Animale is closest to a western, and within the struggle scenes, the place swift, fluid camerawork reveals off the individuals’ – and the film-makers’ – agility and experience.

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As for Benestan’s tackle the game itself – which, not like Spanish bullfighting, doesn’t contain the killing of animals – she reveals admiration for individuals who participate, but additionally, like Nejma, feels sympathy for animals that will undergo. Even so, viewers with animal proper sensibilities might really feel reluctant to interact wholeheartedly.

Though the narrative finally goes off the rails, Amamra’s magnetically pugnacious lead provides Animale a constant pull, whereas director Benestan’s work with cinematographer Ruben Impens – who additionally shot Titane – is bustling and kinetic, and intimate when it must be. Costume designer Fabienne Menguy additionally scores with a milieu-specific vary of dazzlingly colored shirts that is without doubt one of the movie’s visible trump playing cards. 

Manufacturing firm: June Movies

Worldwide gross sales: Movie Constellation chloe@filmconstellation.com

Producer: Julie Billy, Naomi Denamur

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Cinematography: Ruben Impens

Manufacturing design: Eve Martin

Editor: Clémence Diard

Music: Yan Wagner

Predominant solid: Oulaya Amamra, Damien Rebattel, Vivien Rodriguez, Claude Chaballier, Marinette Rafai



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