JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Mammuth (Directors/Writers: Gustave de Kervern, Benoît Delépine) - January 14, 2011


5 5
92 min.

Reviewed at the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Letting lost love go

At last, a film to savour on all fronts. Actor Gérard Depardieu gives a master class performance playing Serge Pilardosse (affectionately known as his famed motorcycle, Mammuth—a.k.a. Mammoth). Virtually every emotion and feeling in his cinematic bag of staples and tricks finds their way to the screen. You will laugh, cry, blush (arthritis has never been, er, handled more hilariously), weep and revel as a road journey for all-important retirement affidavits magically morphs into a tale of self-discovery for the ages. Any thespians current or hopeful must see this film.

The writing/directing team of Gustave de Kevern and Benoît Delépine have taken advantage of their star’s skills and inventiveness by deftly letting him ply his engaging craft between grainy flashbacks of another era and present-day comedy sketches largely from the bored retiree’s long-suffering bride. Yolande Moreau is a hoot as wife Catherine—her single-handed send-up of automated-telephone-intake software will bring tears of merriment to all eyes; her murderous caper to “dispose” of a preying female mantis who has done her man wrong heats up the already quickly paced narrative only to grind to a wonderful “aha!” halt. (And necessarily so, or the film’s narrative could well become as pinched as Mammuth’s cellphone and cash.)

The other actor of note is Miss Ming. She is perfect as Solange, a hippie-like baby artist (sculpting with all manner of dolls, bunnies and other childish delights) who helps her Uncle Serge find so much more than a few bits of pension-yielding papers. Lurking in the weeds of times-past is Serge’s lost love. Isabelle Adjani is the ghostly soul of discretion as she wishes her paramour to “stay as you are.” Will he?

Gaëtan Roussel’s compositional style and sensitivity (notably the guitar and banjo interventions) add much to the delectable flow as Mammuth travels back into his undocumented past only to discover that bits of official paper can’t hold a candle to “open yourself” verses that no longer look over anyone’s—imagined or real—shoulder.

The cinematic icing on this sumptuous cake comes from Hugues Poulain’s wide-ranging cinematography (the rear-view mirror “adieu” being just one example in the early going) and Stéphane Elmadjian’s razor-sharp editing. The relatively short runtime is a further testament to the shared vision of all concerned. With such a talented cast and crew, there was likely enough footage to triple the length. But knowing instinctively when less is more ensures an even greater final impact for all those who understand that the humour is the needed balm if old wounds are ever to heal. JWR

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