Director Damien Odoul has built up something of a reputation in recent years through his mildly intriguing films Le Souffle (2001) and Errance (2003). Neither could be described as wholly satisfying, which is something that can also be said for this latest effort.
French comedy veteran Pierre Richard stars as Jean-René, an old, rich and dying man who, as a kind of last wish, hires a theatre company to perform a version of ‘The Myth of Dionysus’ in the grounds of his mansion. While Jean-René gets on reasonably well with some of the troupe, it rapidly emerges that none of the performers seem especially interested in the business of staging the play, instead preferring to focus on the often fraught intra-group relationships.
Although Jean-René is clearly enjoying the stimulation that results from being in the company of so many other, younger minds, the abortive attempts at putting the play together lead him to stage his own performance – one of his own death – which completely reverses roles, as those he’s paid to perform for him now have to form the audience for their host’s macabre turn.
En attendant le déluge is a film that many will find ample reasons to dislike. It plays almost like a self-parody of French cinema, with its ambling narrative, focus on relationships and smug, self-centred characters guaranteed to send anyone with a fear of subtitled fare scrambling for the exit (or the stop button). However, it’s actually not too bad as a watch-once movie, although the lack of any wholly sympathetic characters (including the dying man!) would have made the film quite hard going had Odoul unwisely exceeded the brief running time. Its main problem perhaps lies in Odoul’s casting of himself in the key role of Yves; his rather earnest reading of the part makes one wish for an actor such as Errance’s Benoît Magimel, an increasingly accomplished performer as at home in action flicks Nid de guêpes (2002) and Les Rivières pourpres II (2004), as he is in more cerebral works such as his back to back films for Claude Chabrol, La Fleur du mal (2003) and La Demoiselle d’honneur (2004).
While Odoul’s performance may grate slightly, there are at least – in a film with not much in the way of plot to keep viewers occupied – a couple of noteworthy performers to keep an eye on: Anna Mouglalis, perhaps best known for playing Jeanne in Merci pour le chocolat (2000), is good value in the rather underwritten role of Milena, and of course there’s Richard, a performer much-loved for his roles in films including Le Grand blond avec une chaussure noire (1972), Les Comperes (1983) and Les Fugitifs (1986), One suspects it is films such as these, and not the mildly interesting diversion that is En attendant le déluge, that the actor will be remembered for.