Les Clefs de bagnole Review

“It’s a quest, a rite of passage, an allegory” is how Laurent Baffie describes his film, Les Clefs de bagnole in its opening moments, though his tongue is firmly in his cheek. The French TV personality’s feature debut (following the short Hot Dog) is actually nothing of the sort, rather its 90 minutes are spent in his company as he tries to find his car keys. To which you may ask why exactly, and the answer is to purely self-reflexive ends. The opening segment sees Baffie tout his screenplay around various producers and actors, only to be met with screams of “crap”, “shit” and “you’re a moron” – all of which would suggest that the director is up for a laugh, but is his film actually funny?

The answer is a simple no as Les Clefs is a self-indulgent mess predicated on a single gag. Moreover, this joke – and its punchline – are divulged in the opening seconds: having spent the film looking for his keys, Baffie will find them in his trouser pocket. For the rest of the movie we simply get a series of tired plays on cinematic conventions, from ridiculous plot twists and the conventions of editing. At first you feel as though you may be missing out on a whole series of in-jokes (after all, Baffie is hardly a well-known face in the UK), yet this doesn’t prove to be the case. Rather everything is centred around this single gag, yet without any of the ingenuity or charm which was so integral to Chuck Jones’ Duck Amuck, say, or Gary Ross’ Pleasantville.

Indeed, Les Clefs is a film with nothing else to offer as it hasn’t put in the effort elsewhere. There are no performances as such, just self-indulgent cameos (in which to cringe for everyone from Jean Rochefort to Eric Cantona), and likewise no other qualities to admire. Admittedly, it does at least start of with a certain energy (a piano gag in the manner of Laurel and Hardy’s The Music Box takes place in mere seconds as opposed to their 30 minutes), but this soon accounts for nothing as it has no structure to cling to or, more importantly, direction to go.

Of course, there is the possibility that Baffie has made a bad film on purpose, and that its sheer awfulness is the real punchline. (By extension, Les Clefs could also, therefore, be read as a comment on the hideous efforts that result from TV stars trying to break into the film industry.) Yet quite why he has decided to do this, and why he has done so in such a manner so that the film has a reasonable budget and is shot in the ‘scope frame, is never made abundantly clear. Certainly, approaching Les Clefs from this direction doesn’t make it any more palatable nor, more importantly, does it make it any funnier.

The Disc

Released as part of Tartan’s “Ciné Lumière” collection, Les Clefs de bagnole comes to the UK DVD market as a Region 0 release following a brief theatrical run. On the whole its presentation is pleasing with a clean print, anamorphic transfer and choice of soundtracks. Indeed, we get the film just as we’d expect from a new release: in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and demonstrating few technical flaws (there are the occasional instances of artefacting). As for the soundtrack all three are equally fine. Of course, the DD2.0 mix is less expansive than the DD5.1 or the DTS options, whilst these latter two have very little to separate them. English subtitles are optional. With regards to extras these are limited to (some would say thankfully) the theatrical trailer and a series of promos for other Tartan releases.

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Last updated: 25/07/2018 03:11:14

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