Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph) opens with scenes of Paris, people walking around, etc. Then we see two boys trying to torture a caged rat. I did wonder what kind of film I’d walked into. But those guys are just the idiotic classmates of Vincent, one of the main characters, and we don’t see much of them again. Just as well.
Teenage Vincent (Victor Ezenfis) lives in Paris with his single mother (Natacha Regnier), who’s an almost saintly nurse. In his bedroom he has a poster of Caravaggio’s 1603 painting, The Sacrifice of Isaac. Kinda gruesome!
Vincent’s mother has always refused to tell him who his father is, and on this particular day he is so enraged about it one wonders how his mother put up with him for so many years.
After rummaging through a rolltop desk, Vincent finds a letter that reveals his father’s identity. You’d think, if he was so determined to know, that he would have found that letter years ago, but never mind, I won’t argue about it.
Vincent bluffs his way into a book-launch party, meets some ditzy and pretentious characters on the literary scene, and gets a glimpse of his father, Oscar Pormenor (Mathieu Amalric) a man so monstrous he can’t even remember how many children he had with his wife. “Details bore me,” he says.
With his red tie, red scarf, wealth, scorn and libidinous attitude, Oscar Pormenor made me think of Donald Trump. (Sorry!) The more Vincent learns about him, the more horrified he becomes. He hatches a plan which is unwise, not to mention illegal, immoral, etc.
On the plus side, Vincent meets Joseph (Fabrizio Rongione), Oscar’s brother and pretty much his polar opposite. Joseph is a really great guy, even if he’s not a success in the business world. More likely he’s a great guy precisely because he’s not a success in the business world.
The people in Son of Joseph speak in a very stilted, serious and unnatural way, almost like. . .inexperienced actors. Of course, the actors are not inexperienced at all, declamation is just part of director Eugène Green’s style. (Apparently, Green has a cult following, just like Hong Sang-soo, whose film Yourself and Yours will be playing at the same time today, just a few blocks away. Both films are on the schedule of the Festival du nouveau cinéma.) At first I found this way of talking rather strange. I got used to it, though I never stopped noticing it, and it made the funny parts funnier still.
Son of Joseph is about serious things, like how to be a good person, the longing for family, connection, and acceptance, but it also offers beautiful Parisian scenery and many laughs as well.
Almost all the interior scenes take place in very old buildings with creaky wooden floors. My congratulations to the sound people for picking up (or maybe recreating) all those creaks.
Coffee and Films was the production company for Son of Joseph. Isn’t Coffee and Films a great name?
Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph)
France, Belgium | 115 Minutes
In French with English subtitles
Written and directed by Eugène Green
With Victor Ezenfis, Natacha Regnier, Fabrizio Rongione, Mathieu Amalric, Maria de Medeiros, Julia de Gasquet, Jacques Bonnaffe
Sunday, Oct.16, 2016
Program #281 15:15
Cinéma du Parc 2, as part of the Festival du nouveau cinéma.