July 29, 2021

Just Philippot’s vampire locusts in the wake of Hitchcock’s “Birds”


Before entering the greenhouse where Virginie (Suliane Brahim, resident of the Comédie-Française) raises her grasshoppers, a word to locate The Cloud, by Just Philippot, in the starry sky of genre films: from the outset, let us specify that this first feature film is unlike any other thriller, despite its assumed cousinhood with a few monuments such as The birds (1963), by Alfred Hitchcock, insects echoing the overwhelming threat of gulls and crows. From the Sofilm genre laboratory, created in 2016 by Thierry Lounas, producer and co-founder of Capricci, The Cloud creates a suspense made in France, in the sense that the fantastic feeds on the most sadly banal reality of contemporary society.

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At the start of XXIe century, filmmakers hardly need to invent a catastrophe: it is happening, slowly or with beating of wings. And if our eyes weren’t open yet, a movie ticket will be enough to open them, thanks to an intelligently sequenced dread. So, you have to run indoors, and this message is addressed to genre film addicts as well as to citizens keen on peasant, food, economic alternatives, and whatever else you want.

Virginie, in her forties, a former nurse’s aide, converted to grasshopper farming after the death of her companion. Her two children, a teenager named Laura (Marie Narbonne) and her little brother Gaston (Raphaël Romand), continue to grow up in the shadow of this mother who barely sees them, she is so busy with her work. The production of edible insects remains insufficient to be profitable, and the critters are not fleshy enough to the taste of buyers.

Virginie does not get out of it, until the day she realizes that the locusts regain strength by absorbing blood, like any good vampire who respects himself. The Cloud, it’s Irma Vep, named after the creature of the soap opera The vampires (1915), by Louis Feuillade, transposed in a realistic vein. We will not reveal more. Let’s just say that from a peasant drama, the two co-scriptwriters Jérôme Genevray and Franck Victor succeed in weaving a story of the most singular and frightening.

Documentary field

The secondary characters, well anchored in the earth, Karim (Sofian Khammes), the attentive neighbor who launches into the vineyard, or the old man observer (Christian Bouillette) and his dog, tighten the bolts of a story that is a priori improbable. . The director drew his material on the documentary field – in particular from films such Anaïs goes to war (2014), by Marion Gervais, to dive into the fantastic, a bit like other filmmakers were interested in colonial history and migrant stories to write a zombie film: Atlantic (2019), by Mati Diop, ou Zombi Child (2019), by Bertrand Bonello. Before them, Jeff Nichols had studied climate change (Take Shelter, 2012), the latter having inspired Just Philippot in a short film at the end of the world, Acid (2018).

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