Mammuth – Siff 2011 Movie Review

Mammuth [ France (French), 2010, 92 minutes ]
Director: Gustave de Kervem, Benoît Delépine
Principal Cast: Gérard Depardieu, Yolande Moreau, Isabelle Adjani, Miss Ming
See it: June 3, 5 at SIFF

Mammuth is a slow-moving French film about Serge, a newly retired man on a countryside motorbike mission to collect documents that will allow him to receive his retirement benefit money. I will admit that I am not French, and perhaps if I were I would better understand how an aging citizen might not have his affairs in order to receive his retirement payments. But in my world of U.S. Social Security, where I get a yearly statement of my future benefits, it’s hard to understand how one could get all the way to retirement and then have to hunt down rogue documents in order to receive benefits. But I digress… the movie overall was disappointing because I felt like I never really got to know any of the characters very well – I needed a little more backstory or development to understand what drives them. Serge’s brief interactions with prior employers and fellow travellers provide some laughs (I did quite enjoy the scenes with Serge’s niece, a free-spirited artist) but also some confusion (what was with that scene with his “cousin”?). Overall, I felt that before I could have any empathy for Serge’s current life and predicaments, I needed a little more explanation in order to feel that connection.

Overall Entertainment / Enjoyment: C
This is more of a visceral response to the film rather than a deconstruction of what it lacked; I just didn’t enjoy it.

Film Festivalness: B-
It’s definitely the venue for a slow French film to be screened – but so many other film festival movies have such great character development and story arcs, that this one just fell flat.

Siff Provided Synopsis:
Anchored by the kind of tour-de-force performance that has made Gérard Depardieu an icon, Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern’s offbeat, affectionate, and frequently very funny road movie provides the hulking actor with his best role in years. He plays Serge (known as “Mammuth” to friends, after his rusting old motorcycle), first seen attending his retirement party at the local pork slaughterhouse. An honest and genuine guy—if not exactly an intellectual heavyweight—Serge finds himself at loose ends now that his working life is over, and it is his wife Catherine (the superb Yolande Moreau) who suggests he seek out his old employers in order to get all his pension-application paperwork in order. Out comes the motorbike, and off scoots Serge on an adventure that will see him cross paths with con artists, his kooky relatives, some hilariously officious bureaucrats—and the ghost of his first love, as embodied by Isabelle Adjani. Delépine and de Kervern underscore the laughs with an unsentimental thread of genuine emotion throughout and then they do the smart thing: they let Depardieu take over. His Serge is one of the most unforgettable characters ever on film.



Provided Film Synopsis

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