CRITIQUE / FILM REVIEW – Celebrated as soon as it was presented in August 2020 at the Angoulême Festival, and wherever it has been seen since, “La Nués” arrives in theaters with a fine reputation. Directed by Just Philippot, written by Jérôme Genevray and Franck Victor, finally interpreted in particular by Suliane Brahim and Sofian Khammes, “La Nués” has everything to make a lasting mark on French cinema, beyond its genre.
The Cloud, big first
The Cloud is the directorial debut of Just Philippot. He is also a first film role for his main actress. It is, again, a first feature film script of this caliber for its screenwriters Jérôme Genevray and Franck Victor, experienced authors who built this story together as part of a So Film writing residency, on an original idea by Jérôme Genevray. This precision is important, since The Cloud is a film whose writers – before the director – are particularly highlighted in its production and promotion. An unprecedented presentation but which is part of a new trend of sustained recognition of film authors, on an equal footing with the director. Among several industrial reasons, it is also and above all to emphasize all the importance of history, writing, and ultimately the discourse that makes a film. And the story of The Cloud is objectively great.
The story unfolds today. Virginie (Suliane Brahim), single mother, raises her two children as well as edible grasshoppers. Farmer, more precisely entomoculatrice, she raises grasshoppers intended for consumption and more particularly with a view to making animal meal for other farms. Her daily life is entirely devoted to her work, exhausting, precarious, and her personal situation deteriorates as the profitability of her operation flees her. His son Gaston (Raphael Romand) owns a small terrarium in which some of these grasshoppers live, when Virginie raises them. thousands in dedicated biospheres. A living species of leisure and exploitation therefore, these grasshoppers, which are supposed to provide them with an income and a normal lifestyle, will not, however, react as expected.
Genius of demanding writing and production, the film very quickly reveals the source of its drama. In a very close-up – which could perhaps empty part of the room, sensitive souls will be able to look away – we quickly see Gaston let a grasshopper taste a small wound on one of his fingers. The grasshopper seems to take a liking to it, without this having immediate consequences. For her part, Virginie struggles to develop her farm and build other biospheres, firmly believing in the future of this culture.
In a few minutes and a close-up that tell the frankness and precision of the film, the frame is set: a multiple drama that develops on a family and social line, then horrific and fantastic. When many genre films noticed, especially Grave, play a more abstract score where ailments and symbols can sometimes be laboriously suggested, the authors and the director write The Cloud in a very realistic, honest and explicit framework.
A film that sweats the cinema
How to define “gender”? Very, too complicated question, but for which a first simple answer exists: the “genre” is codified. This implies that he plays with methods, images, intentions and references attached to a genre: that of thriller, for example, but here in this case that of horror and fantasy. The strength of The Cloud is to recall great films, as obviously The birds d’Alfred Hitchcock, Fly by David Cronenberg but also, and perhaps more surprisingly, a film like Jurassic Park, with the devouring of a goat which can only recall the introduction of the T-Rex in the work of Steven Spielberg.
Other codes, those of the fragile family unit which will be recomposed – or not – at the end of the drama that is playing out. A family to protect, to raise, to make survive, what we still find at Spielberg since Jaws until War of the Worlds, two great films respectively registered in the genres of horror and science fiction.
To tell this story of rebellion of the animal world and merging in horror with the human world, the production of Just Philippot is flawless, starting from a naturalism that exposes an intimate and social reality and then with application developing a drama that leads to the contemplation of a fantastic phenomenon – wide shots and music in tune with this ambition. The Cloud tell a rural drama with tragic overtones which intelligently turns into Eucharistic horror, a fusion in the manner of Cronenberg between the human world and the animal world, a fusion in which each of these worlds devours the other.
And to stage this merger, no savings in plans. On the contrary, the camera allows itself all the closings, all the movements, scanning the physical extent of the exploitation as sticking to the closest to a character in a besieged vehicle interior, showing everything that can be shown without never be it artificial or purely illustrative.
A horrific peasant tragedy with a sublimated female figure
Suliane Brahim is a great theater actress, boarder since 2009 and member since 2016 of the Comédie-Française, expert in the classical repertoire. For her first film role, she gives herself body and soul to a very great performance. The Cloud speaks of bodies, that of the earth, that of locusts, and above all that of a hardworking, determined woman in a world that first rejects her. This is the social and political part of the film, magnificently developed, which tells of the difficulty of being a peasant, subjected to the irony of men and their sexism which diminishes her in the role she wishes to give herself of farmer and mother, quite simply.
While one guesses, thanks to the cracked glass of Gaston’s terrarium, that grasshoppers become stronger through blood, one sees it literally when Virginia, exhausted, injures her arm in one of her biospheres and the locusts feed on his blood. She then understands that by feeding them this way, her grasshoppers will be stronger, more developed and therefore more profitable. We will therefore have to find more blood, until the locusts themselves find it …
It is therefore a question of sacrifice, the one that capitalist society demands of the peasant world and a fortiori of its women, by breaking and emptying their bodies. On this monstrous feminine identity, which has also been exploited Grave in another environment, The Cloud shows this sacrifice, this gift of self and of his blood to his survival, to that of his family, until this gift nourishes a self-devouring of the living world.
The relationship between Virginie and Karim (Sofiane Khammes) completes this horrific feminine relationship with society. Addressing not a pike to the men of the story, but pointing out that the prejudice of domination and obviousness of a romance does not work so simply. Despite the perfect interpretations for this dimension of the film, it is perhaps the least successful. The relationship between Virginie and her daughter Laura (Marie Narbonne) is she perfectly staged, with lots of eloquent silences, offering a view into adolescent and adulthood, and the resolution of the relationship between two female characters who can ultimately be seen as, perhaps, one.
The Cloud is a magnificent success
Put on the masks, the comparisons made above are not entirely legitimate because they are not innocent. There are indeed not many cinemas more different than that of the authors of The Cloud and that of Steven Spielberg, where the social dimension does not exist, but there is this pure emotion of horror and this fascination with a simple dramatic narrative which fills the eyes and the heart.
Regarding Grave, a very good genre film despite its false modesty and its evanescence not always under control, The Cloud indeed plays the same codes and shares some modern views. But Just Philippot’s film does it with great fluidity and impressive mastery, and finally a behavior of its subject and its setting in scene which testify to a love of the cinematographic narrative. By belonging to the same genre which would embrace social and horrific drama, the two films maintain a form of continuity, with a higher level reached by The Cloud, which among other qualities finds its nobility in its humility.
You must not go and see The Cloud because it is talked about a lot in the media, nor because it could be a very great genre film, you have to go see it because it is it’s an excellent movie film where very intense emotions prevail and which, if it is not perfect all the time, objectively often is.
The Cloud by Just Philippot, in theaters on June 16, 2021. Above the trailer. Find all our trailers here.