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French dramedy Roxane is an enjoyably cheesy soufflé

 

ROXANE
directed by Mélanie Auffret

An egg-farming community faces ruin by corporate food giants in Mélanie Auffret’s debut feature.

You can understand why the hens belonging to French farmer Raymond like to spend their free-range time listening to his barnyard readings of Cyrano de Bergerac. It is, after all, a story about a romantic bantamweight who farmed out the wooing of his beloved Roxane to a bloke with a very big beak.

The much-filmed Rostand play and other French literary classics are heavily referenced in this charming modern tale of a Brittany egg-farming community facing ruin by corporate food giants that only want to deal with large operations.

As his compatriots start tossing leurs oeufs in protest, Raymond (Guillaume de Tonquédec) thinks laterally. He starts making YouTube clips of himself and Roxane, the white hen that accompanies him everywhere and gets more close-ups than any human cast member, and, we are informed in the credits, is played by a hen with the very same name.

His long-buried love of theatre and literature blooms under the tutelage of the cranky expatriate English French-lit teacher next door, who soon has Raymond upping his thespian game and his viewer numbers. But much of his family – including his bank-worker wife – is perplexed at how exactly his online cross-species amateur dramatics will save the farm from ruin. But, of course, the outcome is never in doubt.

Based on an earlier poultry-powered short, director Mélanie Auffret’s debut feature is a film of scrambled tones with black comedy, bucolic whimsy and social-realism occasionally delivered at a cartoon-ish pace. But its ingredients make for an enjoyably cheesy soufflé, for all that.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★1/2

Video: Vendetta Films

This article was first published in the January 25, 2020 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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