Quaint Neo-Surrealism Buoys a Remarkable First Feature


One of the best French films of recent years goes direct to DVD. Alain Guiraudie’s No Rest for the Brave is a deadpan, volatile shape-shifter that utterly defies taxonomy. Morphing from a sleep-deprived slacker comedy to a boho-rustic polysexual fantasy to a semi-slapstick gangster road movie, this remarkable first feature is perhaps best understood as an existential coming-of-age odyssey in which a young hero goes on the run from death, only to confront the inescapable fact of mortality. No stoner reverie despite its dream-within-dream fuzziness, No Rest doesn’t so much blur fantasy and reality as establish a delicate, disconcerting tension between the two. The movie seems to unfold in a parallel universe, a rural France where sleepy hollows are named for far-flung metropolises, spelled to conform with French pronunciation (Buenauzerez, Riaux de Jannerot, Glasgaud). All the same, it remains grounded in a particular social and economic reality—the characters, as in Guiraudie’s previous featurette, That Old Dream That Moves, have difficulty paying bills and finding work. Characterized by a complete absence of foreshadowing, Guiraudie’s films are premised on the unexpected harmony between discordant elements: His quaint neo-surrealism reconnects a debased language—the bastard vernacular of advertising—to its political imperative.