It is not rare that at the beginning of a film, the authors decide to put a quote that may have more or less connection with the story. It’s rare that such a quote appears somewhere around the halfway mark, and that’s exactly what French director Jean-Christophe Meurisse did in this brutal black comedy. And after the moment when we read on the screen a quote from the Italian philosopher, Marxist theoretician and perhaps the fiercest critic of Mussolini, Antonio Gramsci, this real surprise from the film seems to be completely cut. “The old world is dying, and while the new one is trying to be created, it’s time for monsters,” says Gramsci’s quote, and after that “Blood Oranges” really starts to turn into a real movie monster.
An anarchic black comedy, a sick and brutal satire that was extremely cynical even before that shocking transition, but the direction in which Meurisse took this film is completely out of mind and beyond all predictions. I love movies that completely shock me, surprise me, and when I suddenly realize that even after the end, while the exit credits and letters where I usually press stop, I’m still glued to the screen and trying to absorb what I just saw. “Oranges sanguines” or “Bloody Oranges” was one of those films, a shocking and brutal satire that was shown in the midnight program of the Cannes festival for a reason.
From the beginning, the film begins somewhat rude and politically incorrect, rude and wild, so in the opening scene we follow the jury of some kind of dance competition as they argue about which couple will enter the final round of the competition. Among the contestants is an old married couple (Lorella Cravotta and Olivier Saladin) who have a special motive to win. They are facing bankruptcy and the bank is about to foreclose on their house, and they are hoping for a triumph because the main prize is a new car, the sale of which they want to pay off almost half of the debt. In the second story, we follow the fate of the antipathetic and sleazy finance minister (Christophe Paou), who is facing a big scandal because the journalists discovered that he avoided paying taxes and hid money in offshore accounts.
In the third story, we follow a 16-year-old girl (Lilith Grasmug) who is preparing for a party where she plans to lose her virginity, and all these seemingly unrelated stories will be connected by a lawyer (Alexandre Steiger), the son of a couple of dancers and an acquaintance of an arrogant and greedy minister who feverishly wants to succeed on the social scale, but it’s as if he wasn’t completely carved out to be just such human garbage. In addition to him, the whole story will be connected in a shocking way by a complete maniac who will have a great influence on the lives of many characters. Although Meurisse’s obvious intention is, among other things, to shock the audience, this film was an exceptional and brutal satire on French society, its class system, structures and protected elites who will find themselves in an extremely nasty situation.
I suspect that everything that will happen here will be too much for many because there is graphic, wild and shocking violence after Gramsci’s monsters are released from the bottle. But even before that, Meurisse succeeds in building a creepy depiction of a society where, say, old parents don’t want to bother their children with financial problems. Or the 16-year-old is under pressure to lose her virginity as soon as possible. The scene in which the corrupt and arrogant minister discusses austerity measures and how and on whom to cut is particularly striking, and the ease with which they do it not only seems terrifyingly cynical to make one believe that similar meetings look similar in reality.
“Oranges sanguines” was only Meurisse’s second film after the equally wild black comedy “Apnee”, and this primarily theatrical director made an extremely effective black comedy, a brutal and shocking satire that can seem pulpy at times. When night comes and the monsters come out, the violence may seem funny at first, but very soon we are no longer laughing. Meurisse managed to effectively and painfully cynically wrap up this whole finely designed and deeply disturbing social satire in which, as we shall see, there are no protected ones. But, of course, this does not mean that everyone is in the same position.