Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Welcome Back To The Park: The First Trailer For 'Jurassic World' Is Here Welcome Back To The Park: The First Trailer For 'Jurassic World' Is Here New Character And Plot Details Emerge For 'True Detective' Season 2 As More Cast Members Confirmed New Character And Plot Details Emerge For 'True Detective' Season 2 As More Cast Members Confirmed James Gunn Says Shared Universe Model Is "Flawed," Plus Listen To "Awesome Mixtape Volume Zero" For 'Guardians' James Gunn Says Shared Universe Model Is "Flawed," Plus Listen To "Awesome Mixtape Volume Zero" For 'Guardians' 'Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens' Trailer Hits Theaters This Friday 'Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens' Trailer Hits Theaters This Friday Christian Bale Admits He Was Initially "Jealous" When Ben Affleck Was Cast As Batman Christian Bale Admits He Was Initially "Jealous" When Ben Affleck Was Cast As Batman Watch: First Trailer For Thomas Vinterberg's 'Far From The Madding Crowd' Starring Carey Mulligan Watch: First Trailer For Thomas Vinterberg's 'Far From The Madding Crowd' Starring Carey Mulligan Watch: Zac Efron Talks About His Masturbation Techniques In 'The Interview' Segment With James Franco Watch: Zac Efron Talks About His Masturbation Techniques In 'The Interview' Segment With James Franco First Look Images: Patrick Stewart As A Neo-Nazi In 'Blue Ruin' Director Jeremy Saulnier's 'Green Room' & More First Look Images: Patrick Stewart As A Neo-Nazi In 'Blue Ruin' Director Jeremy Saulnier's 'Green Room' & More Watch: Footage From "Sick," Unreleased Marilyn Manson Video, Directed By Eli Roth & Featuring Lana Del Rey Watch: Footage From "Sick," Unreleased Marilyn Manson Video, Directed By Eli Roth & Featuring Lana Del Rey R.I.P. Mike Nichols (1931-2014) R.I.P. Mike Nichols (1931-2014) Christopher Nolan Talks 'Interstellar' Twist And Enigmatic Ending Christopher Nolan Talks 'Interstellar' Twist And Enigmatic Ending Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... SXSW Review: Spierig Brothers 'Predestination'  Starring Ethan Hawke SXSW Review: Spierig Brothers 'Predestination' Starring Ethan Hawke From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Rome Review: Marjane Satrapi Gets Loose, Has Fun In Black Comedy 'The Gang Of The Jotas'

The Playlist By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist November 16, 2012 at 7:55AM

For her third feature film after 2007's beloved "Persepolis" and 2011's "Chicken with Plums," writer-director Marjane Satrapi changes it up once again with "The Gang of the Jotas" ("La Bande des Jotas") which bows today Out of Competition at the Rome Film Festival. Having made the move, with her previous films, from black-and-white animation, to stylized, heavily art-directed live action, here she throws both those styles out of the window and turns in a loose, black comedy road movie that feels, for the most part, about as un-stylized as you can get.
0
Gang Of The Jotas

For her third feature film after 2007's beloved "Persepolis" and 2011's "Chicken with Plums," writer-director Marjane Satrapi changes it up once again with "The Gang of the Jotas" ("La Bande des Jotas") which bows today Out of Competition at the Rome Film Festival. Having made the move, with her previous films, from black-and-white animation, to stylized, heavily art-directed live action, here she throws both those styles out of the window and turns in a loose, black comedy road movie that feels, for the most part, about as un-stylized as you can get. With no particularly pretty pictures to hide behind, the writing, plotting and characterization of this piece are more foregrounded than in any of her previous films. Good news, then, that while the film feels like a minor work, for the majority of its running time it's a wickedly enjoyable caper movie in which the humor, always dark, ranges from the deadpan to the slapstick, but almost always finds its mark. 

Satrapi also stars as the central character, an unnamed woman we first meet in a Spanish airport having collected her bag off the carousel. But when she gets to her hotel, she discovers it's the wrong bag (this one is full of badminton paraphernalia), and arranges an exchange. The owner of the bag, Nils (Mattias Ripa, also the Line Producer), arrives with his friend Didier (Stephane Roche, also the Editor) -- they are amateur badminton players traveling to Spain for a tournament -- and, despite themselves, the two get sucked into the weird vortex of the woman's life. Her story, which she reveals piecemeal to them, involves the titular gang, a group of mafiosos whose names all begin with J (jota), who have killed her sister and are trying to kill her too. It sounds like a tall tale, but when Nils and Didier accompany her to buy a gun for her defense, and Nils then panics and uses that gun, the three of them find themselves bound together on a road trip that turns increasingly into a killing spree. 

The mordant tone is maintained by the deadpan performances from the double-jobbing cast, and Satrapi herself is terrific as the mysterious woman, who morphs gradually from dotty, scatty, chatty fabulist to crimson-lipped puppet master -- the ruthless mastermind and centre of this unlikely trinity. And as director, here her compositional eye is for the surreal, or the odd (we can't use the word "wacky" without wanting to die, but perhaps it applies here), rather than the pretty. It all adds up to an enjoyable cocktail, and if it feels a little disposable next to her acclaimed debut, and next to the lofty themes of tortured artistry in her followup, well, so what? It's exciting that we have here a filmmaker who is so brazenly keen to change her MO from one project to the next.

The problems lie elsewhere. Black comedy is among the hardest genres to do well, requiring a peculiar balance of elements to be sustained all the way through. And Satrapi is almost successful in pulling it off -- almost, but not quite. Having been so assured and dynamic and funny for the first two acts, the pace slackens in the third, and the originality and energy that has abounded until then seems to dissipate. And the final scene, at a party (thrown by now regular Satrapi collaborator Maria de Madeiros) is a misfire, the revelations it brings forth are hardly revelatory, and the attempt at a "…" ambivalent ending just feels unsatisfying. It's as though Satrapi, having had such a great time along the way, can't quite work out the story's ending, and so doesn't really give it one. "The Gang of the Jotas" is a film that confirms Satrapi's eclectic, eccentric talent and her wicked eye for the absurd, but it can't quite stick the landing. [B]

This article is related to: Marjane Satrapi, Gang Of The Jotas, Rome Film Festival, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates