“After a wait of 6 years,” begins Notebook editor Daniel Kasman, “Serge Bozon has followed up his expansive and beautiful La France with a far more modestly scaled what’s-it: Tip Top, a pseudo-detective film at once burlesque and jabbing, adapted from one of a series of novels by Welsh author Bill James. It overlaps not just genres (crime, comedy) but production ‘genres’ or types; in the sense that a minimalist Rotterdam arthouse movie is a ‘festival film,’ Tip Top feels both a distinctly auteurist film from Bozon, and a strange lower-middle range product of Euro-financing (France, Luxembourg, Belgium) involving a certain specific combination of border-crossing actors, regional locations, and a deadpan, glammed up smalltown modesty. It makes for variegated film texture combining the poetic and the mundane, complicated considerably by an unabashedly ethno-political context.”
“Isabelle Huppert plays an internal-affairs detective assigned to uncover which of her fellow police officers ratted out a murdered Algerian informant,” writes Ben Kenigsberg at RogerEbert.com. “The mystery segues into buddy comedy with Huppert’s dowdy new partner (Sandrine Kiberlain) and tangents involving their kinky personal lives. While Huppert’s bad-cop routine is a hoot, broad jokes involving voyeurism and giant bruises acquired during rough sex coexist uneasily with the movie’s ostensibly serious commentary on Algerian life in France. At the Q&A, Bozon said through a translator that he never wanted the audience to feel too comfortable with the movie’s actors or its tone. Still, he said, ‘My first impulse is not to disconcert the audience. It’s to please them.’ Mission intermittently accomplished.”
For Jonathan Romney, writing for Screen, Tip Top is an “awkward, ultimately tiresome mix of politics, noir intrigue and goofy farce…. Visually, the film has a clean-cut comic-strip quality to it, Céline Bozon’s photography suggesting touches of Aki Kaurismäki and ’80s Godard. But the knowingness rarely comes off as much more than clever but arch cinematic dandyism.”
No subtitles here, but this clip
will give you a pretty good sense of the overall tone
“Tip Top is commendably ambitious in its Godardian attempts to deconstruct the police thriller format,” finds the Hollywood Reporter‘s Stephen Dalton, “but it’s only partially successful. Huppert’s performance is typically excellent, recalling the cold fury of repressed psycho-sexual mania she conveyed in Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher, but she appears to be in a different film than the other characters. Bozon combines bold ideas with a fine cast, but he lacks the overarching vision to deliver more than a fascinating failure.
“It’s silly and wacky and rude and glib,” writes the Guardian‘s Henry Barnes. “Bozon’s shaken up genres before. His last film, La France, made a musical of the first world war. But there’s so much thrown into Tip Top that nothing stands out. A murder once made a noise in Villeneuve. It was drowned out some time ago by screams of bawdy pleasure. Criminal.”
At Cineuropa, Fabien Lemercier would disagree: “Bozon has fun deconstructing genres while at the same time underhandedly injecting into the stormy frenzy of witticisms a multitude of ‘serious’ questions on the theme of ‘duality’: public life-private life, double culture and mixed marriages, authority-revolt, cop-informant, bestiality-social protocols, information and disinformation, reflections… The film as a whole is fed by complexity and conveyed by laughter which resonates like an invitation on the part of the director to echo the injunction from one of the film’s characters: ‘Interpret me!'”
Update, 5/25: Cineuropa‘s posted a video interview with Bozon (6’55”, no subtitles).
Update, 5/27: “An utterly brazen mix of screwball comedy, film noir and sharp social commentary that hits its own strange bullseye more often than not, Bozon’s third full-length feature… benefits immeasurably from actors willing to go as far out on a limb as their intrepid director,” writes Variety‘s Scott Foundas. “There is a strong sense in Tip Top of a vicious cycle of violence and retribution stretching across decades and borders, but rather than treating it in earnest, social-melodrama fashion, Bozon boldly hitches it to an unpredictable screwball engine. The resulting clash of tones initially seems jarring, but ultimately original and invigorating. If nothing else, Huppert and Kiberlain make for a wonderfully odd cop couple, suggesting a strange cross between Cagney & Lacey and Jacques Rivette’s Celine and Julie, Huppert’s fiery Esther barreling through the film in a starched turquoise suit that seems fused to her ramrod-straight body, while Kiberlain’s mousy Sally brings up the rear in a baggy white sweater and oversized spectacles. (In Bozon’s universe, characters very much are what they wear.)”
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