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Atomik Circus

Director: Didier et Thierry Poiraud

FRANCE| 2004| FRENCH W/ENGLISH SUBTITLES| COLOUR| 90 MINS


A delectably deadpan lesson in visualmastery in the service of genre-blending silliness, Atomik Circus rates an A-plus as a B movie. A warped and energetic tale of an escaped convict who reaches his backwoods sweetie in a bayou outpost, just as hostile forces from another dimension drop in, is unclassifiable but grippingly comic from start to finish. Co-helming their first feature, the Poiraud brothers, who hail from comedy and advertising, earn instant cult status with this cozy mix of unconventional humans and special effects, on the order of SlingBlade meets The Invaders.
When a motorcycle stunt goes awry, James Bataille (Jason Flemyng) is sentenced to 133 years in prison. He was only trying to impress local singer Concia (Vanessa Paradis), whose father, Bosco (Jean-Pierre Marielle), owns the small town of Skolett’s cabaret and bar. James escapes and heads straight back to Skolett, shortly before crass music impresario Allan Chiasse (the inimitable BenoitPoelvoorde), is forced to stop there for repairs to his beloved vintage sports car. It would be unfair to reveal more except to say that performances, production design, music and lensing conspire to create and sustain a self-contained universe that feels familiar yet altogether original.
Thanks to the directors’ finely honed comic book sensibility, the most extraordinary developments and the strangest of landscapes are presented in a matter-of-fact register. In her first film role since Patrice Leconte’s The Girl on the Bridge in 1999, Paradis — who sings several spirited musical numbers — proves yet again that she’s a screen natural in the best sense of the word while Poelvoorde retains his crown as Belgium’s gift to off-kilter character acting.

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