Apaches: Cannes Review

Les Apaches Cannes Directors Fortnight Still - H 2013

Les Apaches Cannes Directors Fortnight Still - H 2013

Melancholy French murder thriller with a socially conscious edge.

Inspired by real events, director Thierry de Peretti probes the ugly underbelly of his native Corsica.

The theft of an antique double-barreled shotgun has unexpectedly deadly consequences in this moody French drama, but any resemblance to Guy Ritchie’s knockabout comedy thrillers ends there. Loosely based on real events, Apaches takes place at the southern tip of the Mediterranean island of Corsica, birthplace of the film’s director and co-writer Thierry de Peretti. Playing in the Directors Fortnight strand in Cannes, this quietly engrossing tale of crime and punishment should earn further festival mileage, but the downbeat plot and cast of young unknowns suggests that luring foreign distributors will be an uphill struggle.

The story begins in the hills, at a swanky modernist villa belonging to wealthy second-homers from mainland France. Impoverished teenager Aziz (Aziz El Hadachi), who has access to the villa because his mother cleans there, arrives late one night for an illicit pool party with a group of rowdy friends. But events get out of hand, and these boozy juvenile delinquents steal several items, including the shotgun.

Fearful of bringing trouble on his family, Aziz quickly takes responsibility for the theft under pressure from the local property tycoon, who operates like an underworld racketeer, his team of menacing enforcers controlling the island’s Arab underclass community with threats and favors. Aziz refuses to snitch on his friends, but this does not reassure hot-headed François-Jo (François-Joseph Cullioli), who still plans to sell the gun for a handsome profit. Assembling other witnesses from the party, François-Jo hatches an audaciously amateurish murder plot to cover his tracks.

Slow to find its feet, with sullen adolescent characters who initially seem a little too interchangeable, Apaches gradually draws the viewer into an ever-tightening noose of creeping dread and impending tragedy. The sparingly deployed sound-design score, all low drones and ominous electronic rumbles, is particularly effective here. Violence is minimal and happens off screen, as Peretti is plainly less interested in dramatizing gun crime than in exposing the hidden power structures of race, class and wealth that underpin Corsica’s outwardly sunny tourist-isle image. The final wordless scene, of bright young things partying around the villa pool, adds a bitter aftertaste of futility to all that has gone before.

Production companies: Ferris & Brockman, Stanley White, CNC

Producer: Igor Wojtowicz 

Starring: Aziz El Hadachi, François-Joseph Cullioli, Hamza Mezziani, Maryne Cayon, Joseph-Marie Ebrard

Director: Thierry de Peretti

Screenwriters: Benjamin Baroche, Thierry de Peretti

Cinematographer: Hélène Louvart                

Editor: Pauline Dairou

Sales company: Pyramide

82 minutes