Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season 10 Movies Booed At Cannes 10 Movies Booed At Cannes 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