Bleak, beautiful and unrelenting are three words which aptly sum-up Bruno Dumont’s career to date. A succession of rural dramas where humanity bends its knee to God and beauty and evil vie for supremacy have seen him rewarded with two Grand Jury Prizes and a Golden Camera at Cannes. For his first foray into Television (screened together for the UK theatrical release) the mercurial Frenchman has clearly been swatting up on the small screen work of Lars Von Trier and David Lynch. To say P’tit Quinquin is somewhat of a departure is a gross understatement.
When the body parts of a woman are found in the carcass of a dead cow, P’tit Quinquin (Alane Delhaye) is on hand to witness the discovery. Along with his gang and girlfriend Eve (Lucy Caron), he spends his vacation reeking havoc in rural Boulogne-sur-Mer and terrorising the immigrant population. It’s up to Captain Van der Weyden (Bernard Pruvost) and his assistant Carpentier (Philippe Jore) to solve the crime, but as the witnesses are killed off one by one he finds himself struggling to find a mortal culprit.
P’tit Quinquin is an absurdest rustic crime drama defined by an offbeat storyline which plays out like a dark melancholic farce. All the usual Dumont tropes are in there, especially religion, but there’s a rich vein of baroque humour running throughout. The inhabitants are dark caricatures of French rural life, most of whom have an unmentioned physical peculiarities or deformities. They view the murders as they would do inclement weather. P’tit Quinquin is brilliantly imagined and a wholly original work of demented genius.
P’tit Quinquin is out in cinemas on Friday.