A L'Attaque! (IFC)Thursday 01 Nov 2001
Duration: 0 minutes
Directed by Robert Guediguian, starring Ariane Ascaride, Frederique Bonnal, Jean-Pierre Darrousin, Gerard Meylan, Jacques Pieiller and Denis Podalydes.
In 'A L'Attaque!', loosely translating as 'March On', director Robert Guediguian presents a concise, suburban view of the aeon-old class struggle, this time in modern day France. As always, the focus is small-town, but the sentiment is global. The only difference here is that the struggle is captured via the efforts of two disparate screenwriters, as they bicker and spar their way to the completion of their script. In other words, this is a film within a film.
The scriptwriters' motivation is to present a contemporary, politically aware treatise on the proletariat/capitalist divide. On that much, they agree. It's in the presentation of the structure of the film that things begin to get interesting. They settle on the Moliternos', an Italian immigrant clan who run a small, homespun garage in the working-class Marseille suburb of L'Estaque. Mechanics Gigi and Jean-Do service the vehicles, Lola, the widowed owner, polishes them while Marthe does the accounts. The Moliternos' are laden with the problems that afflict all of humanity: Lola misses her dead husband, couple Gigi and Marthe are going through a sexual crisis, while Jean-Do is just plain lonely.
The pace of the class struggle is upped when the survival of Moliterno & Co is threatened by the refusal of a large multi-national to pay the garage for the service of its vehicles. If the Moliternos' don't get monies owed, the bank will shut them down. Meanwhile, things become even more confused when Lola becomes romantically involved with the local bank manager, who is torn between his love for Lola, and his professional duties.
These are just some of the things thrown into the mix by the scriptwriters within the film (if that makes sense). Middle-aged, sombre Xavier advocates a serious, weighty analysis of the class system, while the younger Yvan just wants sex and melodrama at every turn. Their little squabbles are the key to driving the screenplay on, and all in all, the characters are presented in a likable, natural manner. However, the realist nature of the film is somewhat undermined by the finale, and while the device of using two screenwriters within the film may appeal to some viewers; it leaves Guediguian open the accusation that he lacks the courage of his own convictions. Both distancing and interesting, with the latter marginally shading it.