Film Reviews

Carré Blanc Jean-Baptiste Léonetti

Rating - 7/10

Emerging filmmaker Jean-Baptiste Léonetti has created a remarkably suggestive and discomforting premiere feature with Carré Blanc [White Square], depicting a dystopian future à la George Orwell's 1984 and its literary counterparts as well as George Lucas' assured debut THX 1138 and Jean-Luc Godard's New Wave Alphaville.  The spooky atmosphere and leisurely pacing even echo an anime series like Boogiepop Phantom in all its looming terror and uncertainty.  The title of Léonetti's film is a spatial reference as well as one that identifies the Draconian corporation obliterating human identities, utilizing operant conditioning, and endlessly cycling announcements on an invasive public-address system.  Forcing humans into sterile habitats and churning them out in rehabilitated states like inanimate robots, the White Square corporation gives new meaning to being in the "people business."  Like THX 1138, the film thrives in distorting its audience with contrasts - open white urban spaces adjoined with narrow dark corridors and tunnels - but the films also share a black humor.  Carré Blanc's oppressively bleak tone created through alternating periods of silence and montage is frequently upset by elevator music and croquet reports.  As the film's in-joke, the announcements encourage youth to participate in the arbitrary activity.  It seems to be the only one permitted, and yet the film never shows an actual croquet game in progress.  The closest is a panning shot of a character practicing with a mallet in their home.  Succeeding in the sport, just like with everything else, is eternally out-of-reach.  And as with the film's other facets, Carré Blanc is content in relaying various potentialities instead of divulging a textual prologue or set-up.  Its visual nature inspires a unique emotional response, particularly within its genre.

The director calls the film "a love story in a futuristic context" in favor of "sci-fi."  Where that abstract might be appropriate in Lucas' THX, there is actually little love at all in Carré Blanc, and what remains is snuffed out abruptly.  Really, the film is a presentation of an unsustainable society; Léonetti provokes with images of a city that has not only been destroyed and rebuilt but is destroying itself all over again.  An impossibility to subsist in, this urban model certainly resembles the hollowness of a scaled sculpture itself.  The sterile Hell houses young Philippe and his mother; as their narrative is told in surreal flashbacks, Philippe's mother opts out of the White Square society, one that makes it impossible to succeed as a parent, which leaves the poor boy in custody of the totalitarian State.  Unfortunately, he shares his mother's hopeless views and attempts suicide, but he is rescued and rehabilitated by corporate employees (one of whom he will eventually become).  The rehabilitating exercise given to him and another boy who displays bandaged wrists is designated as "stimulation," when by all humane accounts, it is sheer torture.  The aforementioned boy crawls into a body bag while Philippe beats him under threat of further violence.  This seems to be a standard operating procedure, one that molds its citizens with fear and excruciating physical pain.  Women in the Carré Blanc universe are treated wretchedly, too.  Philippe's wife Marie lives out an unfulfilled existence with a supposedly impotent partner, longing for a baby.  When not directing residents' attention to croquet matches, the PA announcements coerce young teenage, even pre-teen, girls into artificial insemination.  Of course this suggests the absence of love, leaving only the coldness of insistence and mandatory procreation.  Womanhood becomes associated with motherhood, and childhood is gradually smothered; there is a systematic elimination of those necessary developmental stages, innocence, and self-discovery.

So, it can be deduced that this futuristic world is ruled under paternal law.  Patrice, a security guard featured in the latter half of the film, is rigorously encouraged to smile at each passing employee who leaves his garage.  An omnipotent voice tells him that "a paternal smile puts people at ease," which adds to the film's ironic humor.  When Patrice contorts his face, the camera cuts to a close-up of his bleached-white teeth and wavering ability to hold his facial muscles in the position.  Hearing the unknown voice's dictation serves as a reminder of singer-songwriter Antony Hegarty's "Future Feminism" speech on the recent Cut The World live album about feminine systems of government.  Antony says, "I truly believe that unless we move into feminine systems of governance, we don't have a chance on this planet... And I'm someone who's looking for a reason to hope, and for me, hope looks like feminine systems of governance being instated in, like, the major religious institutions and throughout corporate and civil life."  Those words resonate highly in Carré Blanc, a world opposite those ideals.  If Antony's oration is intended to be a panacea, the film cannot possibly consider the significance of his words, so it pushes towards a cold, bleak, animalistic reality.  The film, which opens with the shot of a polar bear in the arctic, returns to that same image and analogy meant to establish the relationship between Philippe and his mother.  It additionally raises that question of matriarchy as a substitute for the oppressive patriarchs.  The world of Carré Blanc is one ruled by terror and enslavement, indicative of Philippe's fate.  (Indeed, Blade Runner's Roy Batty says, "Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it?  That's what it is to be a slave.")  While light on explanation, this daring visual film reinforces its influences well, creating a world no one on Earth wants to imagine but may eventually have to face... that is, if society remains oblivious to some of the horrors Carré Blanc hauntingly illustrates.