Ever had a bad morning that prepped you for hating a movie? The same happened to me en route to see “Louise-Michel.” I was exhausted and angry but, I can say that “Louise-Michel” immediately turned my rotten mood upside down. From the opening sequence of a hilariously bleak and botched cremation, I was committed to this film, despite its few shortcomings.
The film tells the story of Louise, a strange man-woman who is so infuriated at his illiteracy and debt that it leads him to kill, forcing him to serve 15 years in prison. Free again, Louise dresses as a woman in order to get a job in a textile factory. The textile factory is unexpectedly closed one morning, and Louise once again is lead to murder, this time by the rage of the workers around her. The women decide that the best thing to do with their meager severance packages is to pool their resources and take revenge, hiring a hit man to take down their boss. It is Louise’s job to help the hit man and ensure that the corporate structure behind the factory closure gets what’s coming to it. What follows is a pigeon eating, baby killing, 9/11 mocking, transgendered good time.
Following their 2006, Cannes premiering comedy “Avida,” writers/directors Benoit Delépine and Gustave de Kervern use actors Yolande Moreau and Bouli Lanners to their full potential, highlighting their gender-neutral (and, frankly, very unattractively presented) features and the expressivity of their blandness. Watching two people moving so slowly has never been so fun.
While “Louise-Miche”l is hilarious to some with the blackest hearts, I found parts extremely difficult to watch. Exploiting physical deformities (a midget making his first appearance popping out from behind a small statue to be immediately shot, for example), mental illness and physical illness (Michel, the hired hit man, uses terminally ill patients to actually pull the trigger), the film delves into the misanthropic at times. This is not a film that loves its characters, or any characters really. The proletariat is perversely stupid with bad dye jobs, while the bourgeois can’t remember the names of their newly adopted infants.
While elements of the story are fairly charming, these negative characteristics start to drag the film down in the end, with characters doing unexpected things just for the sake of absurdity. Why, for example, does Louise suddenly find her voice halfway through the film, only to growl the angriest anarchistic propaganda? Don’t get me wrong; I’m as big a fan of anarchy as the next starving student. My point is that these antiheroes are not of your most loveable variety and it served to drag the film down.