Les Derniers Jours du Monde -- Film Review

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PARIS -- Some things will never change, not even for the apocalypse. According to the new French film "Les Derniers Jours du Monde," when the final trumpet sounds, its citizens will have their minds on sex, a bottle of fine wine and a visit to the opera even as the bodies pile up in the street.

The Larrieu brothers -- Arnaud and Jean-Marie -- have a track record for bold, off-beat storytelling and here they have broadened their canvas, though perhaps with some loss of focus. However, the directors display a keen sense of spectacle so the movie should please audiences on condition that they don't take it too seriously.

(The picture was screened at Locarno under the title "This is the End." Other English language titles under consideration include "Happy End" and "The Apocalypse is Near.")

With the world falling apart for reasons that are never made quite clear -- there are references to a killer virus, earthquakes, nuclear bombs over Moscow and missile attacks on Paris -- Robinson Laborde (Mathieu Amalric) takes off in pursuit of the exotic Laetitia (Omahyra Mota) for whom he has already dumped his wife Chloe (Karin Viard). This odyssey that takes him from Biarritz on the Atlantic to Pamplona in northern Spain, then back to Toulouse -- which has meanwhile become the French capital -- and eventually to a deserted Paris.

Along the way there are innumerable opportunities for Robinson to get intimate, not just with his lover and former spouse but also with Ombeline (Catherine Frot), his father's former mistress, and the mysterious Iris (Clotilde Hesme), not to mention, in a sexually ambiguous moment, his best friend of many years, the opera singer Theo (Sergi Lopez).

Sex-comedy elements mixed in with end-of-the-world scenes and a road-movie structure mean that the Larrieus' film is distinctly messy and really rather silly, though perhaps not much more so than your average disaster movie. It's also frequently tongue-in-cheek -- or at least it's to be hoped that that's what is intended.

Audiences will find much to laugh (or titter) at, notably Theo's amorous advances on Robinson and the orgiastic gathering in a remote chateau where the guests are as intent on consulting their emails as they are on taking part in the carnal proceedings.

The idea of Robinson having a prosthetic hand is a distraction, and 20 minutes, in particular the Hong Kong and Canada flashbacks, could usefully have shaved from the running time.

Opened: In France on Aug. 19
Production companies: Soudaine Compagnie, Arena Films, France 2 Cinema, Mallerich Films, Estrategia Audiovisual
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Catherine Frot, Karin Viard, Sergi Lopez, Clotilde Hesme, Omahyra Mota
Directors/screenwriters: Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu
Based on the novel by: Dominique Noguez
Producers: Bruno Pesery, Herve Duhamel
Director of photography: Thierry Arbogast
Production design: Ana Alvargonzales, Riton Dupire-Clement
Editor: Annette Dutertre
Sales: Studio Canal
No rating, 130 mins.
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