Bloody Oranges is a strange and convoluted disaster that haphazardly sketches out multiple threads without tying them together. The French film from director Jean-Christophe Meurisse is fast-moving and dialogue-heavy. The tone, more confused than assured, is too chaotic and nonsensical to work. I think people will be surprised at not only the blatant disregard to stick to PC morals (in the opening scene, a heated debate about contestants has one of the judges declaring “I refuse to grade the disabled!”), but also at the vile and revolting lows Bloody Oranges must sink to get its point across.
Bloody Oranges tries to pull a Pulp Fiction by presenting us with four very different types of storylines, seemingly in the hope that at least one of them will stick. At the center of it all—or, at least, serving as both launching-off point and narrative wrap-around—is a dancing contest judged by a roundtable of cynical imbeciles. “A group of old folks dancing is worse than your mom stripping,” one of the characters muses about the “for seniors” competition. From here, we branch out into a variety of directions.
Two old folks facing the repossession of their house have qualified for the dance contest finals, and they are hopeful the reward SUV for winning can be sold to help repay half their debts. Their son (Alexandre Steiger) attempts to climb the social ladder at work, no matter what the cost. A young girl (Lilith Grasmuth), on the cusp of her sexual awakening, gets nabbed by a crazed maniac with a dark sexual appetite. A finance minister (Christophe Paou) undergoes a phony photoshoot with his wife, then comes knocking at the wrong door. How do all these disparate threads connect? The answer is not the slightest bit satisfying, causing more frustration than catharsis.
Snappy dialogue tries its hardest to shock and awe the audience before the literal shock and awe of the final act. The film’s home stretch tries its hardest to get under your skin. Its touchy subjects include disgusting vaginal talk involving drooling snails, discharge, and labial flaps turning into a grey steak; gossipy conversations about queefing and male vs female orgasms; and quarreling about how difficult it is to direct and dance with Down’s Syndrome children. You would be in the minority if you are not offended by at least one of these topics, or at least the way they are handled.
I will not spoil the depravity here, but suffice to say the film goes to some truly disgusting visual places. It aims to justify a revenge plot with minimal setup. Bloody Oranges is a movie that juxtaposes “Rock Around the Clock” against a traumatic assault that should carry its own trigger warning, yet is played for dark comedy laughs. Just because the horror is happening to a despicable person does not make it any more justified. The way Bloody Oranges executes these moments of brutality is with zero care for subtlety or narrative purpose. Shock value for the sake of shock alone has surpassed ‘lazy’ and crashed straight into ‘pointless.’ An exercise in audience endurance, Bloody Oranges is a special brand of pretentious trite, equal parts off-putting and dull.
Bloody Oranges puts in three fingers before its debut at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, July 6th – 17th.