Bloody Oranges weaves a series of overlapping stories of transgressions and fatal mistakes with a dry, wry sense of dark humor that ultimately leads nowhere.
Halfway through Bloody Oranges (Oranges sanguines), an Antonio Gramsci quote appears onscreen, reading, “The old world is dying, the new world struggles to be born: Now is the time of monsters.” Perhaps marking a transition, since the film soon starts to take a series of dark and grisly turns, it’s an odd moment for a quote to appear on the screen, since you’d expect it at the beginning or end. This isn’t the film’s only awkward, puzzling moment, as the rest of its runtime is populated by a number of odd moments, from a man feeding a pet boar to excruciatingly long conversations about politics, debt collection, and sexual naïvety.
At first, Bloody Oranges follows a series of random episodes, seemingly unrelated to each other. At a rock’n’roll dance contest, we meet Olivier (Olivier Saladin) and Laurence (Lorella Cravotta), a couple hoping to win the grand prize car to sell to pay off part of their mountain of debt. We soon meet their son, Alexandre (Alexandre Steiger), a lawyer trying to navigate his way around the social ladder. This cast of peculiar characters is also joined by the corrupt finance minister Stéphane (Christophe Paou), the teenage girl Louise (Lilith Grasmug), a nasty sadist (Fred Blin), and an irritating taxi driver (Pascal Tagnati). These characters and their stories eventually collide, crafting a narrative tableau of varying transgressions and a series of shocking consequences.
It’s not worth describing Bloody Oranges’ plot in much more detail, since there really isn’t much else more to say. Much of the film is populated with excruciatingly long conversations that test your patience and interest, shot in listless long takes. Despite the camera trained on them for such extended periods of time, these characters feel so distant and inaccessible. It’s hard to enter Bloody Oranges, especially after its droll opening that drags on and on, a conversation between judges for the dance contest discussing disabled contestants and political correctness. It’s even more difficult to find anything to latch onto in the film—there’s nothing emotionally or narratively compelling driving the story as each of its narrative threads move with such a plodding pace and no sense of context, and nothing visually innovative or engaging enough to hold our attention. It’s the kind of film that makes you wonder why co-writer and director Jean-Christophe Meurisse even bothered making this in the first place.
Halfway through Bloody Oranges, just after the awkwardly placed Gramsci quote, the film takes a sharply malevolent turn with a series of sadistic events, culminating in one particularly gruesome scene that quickly escalates its careless lethargy into unexpected shock before returning to its familiar passive rhythm. It’s hard to make sense of what the film’s trying to say, and by the end, the only logic to the story (and world of the film) is its nihilistic worldview and some vague idea like transgressions have consequences, or something like that.
Dry and droll, without any sense of charm, Bloody Oranges disappoints as a dark comedy. There’s no charm to the film, no memorable personality, nothing to keep it engaging to watch, and nothing worth laugh or even a wry smile. It’s either flatlined into listless boredom or trying too hard to shock and provoke, and even those moments feel so out of place here. It feels too random, too scattered, and its most unique moments, like the scene of the sadist feeding a boar in his living room, feel so haphazardly placed.
Bloody Oranges is now available to watch in US theaters and on VOD: click here to watch the film. In the UK, Bloody Oranges will be released in cinemas and on digital on September 16, 2022.