On War



Cannes, Directors' Fortnight

CANNES -- The superb and ubiquitous French actor Matthieu Amalric, who deserves better, plays a film director, significantly named Bertrand -- just like the director of the film we're watching! -- who's having a bit of a mid-life crisis.

On a new location he's scouting, through circumstances too complicated to go into, he's accidentally locked in a coffin overnight. The experience changes him profoundly, and shortly thereafter he meets a mysterious man (Guillaume Depardieu) who offers to take him to "The Kingdom,"a special place that is presided over by Uma, played by a surprisingly primly dressed Asia Argento. In this sylvan retreat, he will learn how to recapture joy and grace. So far so good.

At this point, however, the producers and money men must have stopped reading the script, or else director Bertrand Bonello is one helluva salesman. Things go from bad to worse and Bonello seems to toss into the mix every idea he's ever had, whether it works or not.

An ill-fitting motif of war and warriors, never really explained, takes over and will throw even the most attentive viewers for a loop. Ultimately,the 130-minute movie (which desperately needs to lose at least 30 minutes), descends into a profound and interminable silliness that will virtually assure  sparse returns worldwide.