Hip Movements: Locarno Review

A Gallic sex comedy with cultish edge.

The French porn star turned actor-director known as HPG edges closer to the mainstream with this black comedy.

LOCARNO - A broody young woman resorts to desperate measures to become pregnant in this dark comedy from the actor-director Hervé-Pierre Gustave, aka HPG, who also co-stars. A former porn star who later crossed over into directing, Gustave is a maverick figure in French cinema, with a spotty track record mostly consisting of experimental shorts and narcissistic documentaries. All the same, his second narrative feature is far more watchable and conventional than his dramatic debut We Should Not Exist, which made a minimal splash at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes six years ago.

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Hip Movements is an uneven affair, with a tone that lurches between caustic humour and surreal melodrama, but it also has an irreverent charm and a strong authorial voice. Opening in France next month following its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland two weeks ago, Gustave’s unorthodox comedy could appeal to more open-minded members of the established worldwide audience for Francophile cinema. The presence of football legend Eric Cantona and his off-screen wife Rachida Brakni in the cast may also boost the film’s modest commercial prospects.

Brakni plays Marion, a fiery young woman who leaves her husband when he refuses to collaborate in her motherhood plans. Her subsequent clumsy attempt at becoming pregnant via a drunken one night stand leads her to an unlikely lesbian affair, a sperm-stealing raid on a hospital and a fateful encounter with Hervé (Gustave). An intense loner and martial arts obsessive recently fired from his zookeeper job for depressing the animals, Hervé now works as a night-watchman at a warehouse. Cantona gives an edgy comic turn as his boss, a sentimental sadist with a lucrative sideline pimping out his monstrous wife, played by the busty transsexual Marie d’Estrées.

There are distant echoes of vintage John Waters and Pedro Almodovar here, but Gustave is less of a self-conscious stylist than either, his excursions into campy excess appearing more accidental than artful. He also lightens the mood with some zippy visual flourishes, punctuating longer scenes with recurring footage of martial arts quick-step exercises that are both dainty and hilarious. Though its plot may be heavy-handed and its characters cartoonish, Hip Movements still skips along with an agreeably goofy, cultish energy.

Venue: Locarno Film Festival screening, August 9

Production companies: Capricci Films, HPG Production, Le Fresnoy

Cast: Rachida Brakni, Eric Cantona, Joanna Preiss, HPG, Marie d’Estrées, Jérôme Le Banner

Director: HPG

Producer: Thierry Lounas

Writers: HPG, Thomas Wallon 

Editor: Isabelle Prim

Music: Géry Petit

Sales company: Capricci Films

Rating TBC, 86 minutes