Li'L Quinquin (unrated)

Directed by Bruno Dumont
Picturehouse, Liverpool
6th September 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This was first shown on French television as a four-part miniseries spanning 200 minutes. Such was the spellbinding nature of the bizarre and often absurd film the three hours plus went like a dream.

The title is the nickname of a mischievous boy (Alane Delhaye), who lives in a farm village near the coast in northern France.

Set during the school summer vacation, there is a surreal start to episode one when Li'L, his girlfriend Eve (Lucy Caron) and several mates pursue on cycle bikes a police helicopter, which then airlifts the corpse of a cow from a derelict World War II bunker, which is stuffed with human body parts, apparently placed there via the cow's anus.

Two bumbling cops, Commandant Van der Weyden (Bernard Pruvost) of the local gendarmerie and his lieutenant, Carpentier (Philippe Jore), arrive on the scene to investigate this unusual murder and subsequent killings, with cows again being found with human remains inside them.

Bruno Dumont (who directed Camille Claudel, starring Juliette Binoche) seems to revere the study of human customs from the past and in the present day, including a notable sequence in the film of the celebrations of Bastille Day.

Cinematographer Guillaume Deffontaines lovingly creates a pictorial masterpiece, capturing ravishing views of the sky and the craggy unspoilt landscape, not to mention the coastline, which the kids endlessly roam around for pleasure.

Despite the otherworldly aspects of the story there are strong elements of racism directed at certain individuals, chiefly black Muslims, who reside in the area. For one particular individual this leads to his tragic end.

The empathy between Li'L and Eve, both aged no more than 13-years-old, is very moving, with them warmly embracing each other on several occasions, tenderly capturing the experience of first love.

The esteemed French language film magazine, Cahiers du Cinema, gave Li'L Quinquin the accolade of the best work of cinema created in 2014.

I would not entirely agree with that opinion, but it is definitely a leading contender.

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