Although many continue to limit her career to Shosanna from ‘Damn basterds’, the truth is that Mlanie Laurent has carved out a pretty solid career in which all kinds of films have room on both sides of the pond. It is not well known (at least in these parts) that thanks to the impulse received by her participation in the aforementioned Quentin Tarantino film, in 2011 the actress made her debut as a film director. Ten years later, now in 2021, ‘Le Bal des Folles’ is his sixth film as such (including the documentary ‘Tomorrow’, which he shot with Cyril Dion in 2015).
After films like ‘Respira’ or ‘Galveston’, this film adaptation of ‘El baile de las locas’ by Victoria Mas confirms her solidity not only as a performer, but also as a screenwriter and director. Also, a relative stagnation in a race in front of and behind the cameras that continues to await a (new) hit on the table. The one that is not ‘Le Bal des Folles’, an elegant and respectful film but at the same time, corseted within the parameters of cold and distant cinema of little French, always so (de) aware of forms and manners.
In a way he reminds me of Kenneth Brannagh, a filmmaker who in the early 90s seemed like he was going to take over the world and who ended up working for Disney on the slightest occasion. This does not make either Laurent or Brannagh bad directors, but rather professionals who are often too at the mercy of the material at hand. Thus, it is not so much their work as the potential of the story that they may have in their hands, since their names on a poster do not have to imply any special claim, except when it may be worthwhile (with or without them).
This is the case of ‘Le Bal des Folles’, a solid and solvent film framed in the perspective of gender and that clearly tells a story of the past that looks into the eyes of the present, with the misogyny inherent in the mental institutions of the time. on your bullseye. With clarity, also in an evident and insistent way, drawing a roadmap that although sometimes harsh, does not present great surprises nor does it pose any challenge to the hardened and good moral spectator. That is, it lacks that brightness in the look that is generated when they do not tell us exactly what we want to hear.
By Juan Pairet Iglesias