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Movie Review: 'Bloody Oranges' is Shocking, Vulgar, and Surprising

by Sean Patrick about a month ago in movie review
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Not for all audiences, the wildly X-rated violence of Bloody Oranges is shocking and surprising.

Bloody Oranges promises a subversive good time and mostly delivers. This French black comedy is at times bleak, other times surreal, and always strangely intriguing. Directed by Jean Christophe Meurisse, Bloody Oranges has shock value that is matched by an oddball group of characters whose stories you can't help but get caught up in. Some of these people are despicable villains and some are naïve innocents caught up in a system that doesn’t care about basic human decency.

The story begins at a Dance Contest. A group of judges are debating who should win the grand prize. Eventually, the group settles on a lovely elderly couple named Laurence (Lorella Cravotta) and Olivier (Olivier Saladin). The couple is delighted to win and excited to have a chance at real prize money at the next regional contest. The couple desperately wants the prize money as their bank is about to foreclose on their home.

Dancing for their Lives

A heartless French government is cutting pensions and despite their years of work, the couple’s pension is on the chopping block. Without the pension to guarantee their home loan, they are going to be out on the street. The dance contest winnings are a last resort to save the home they’d hope to pass to their children. One of those kids is Alexandre (Alexandre Seigre), a lawyer who is trying to rise in the ranks of his firm. His ambition has landed him an advisory position to one of the top lawyers in the country, the very lawyer of the Finance Minister, Stephane (Christophe Paou) who is cutting his parents pension. Alexandre doesn’t know that.

The lead female character, aside from Laurence, is Louise (Lilith Grasmug), a teenager eager to lose her virginity. We meet Louise at a gynecological exam where a very chatty gynecologist explains sex to her and how to care for her vagina. This knowledge fresh in her mind, Louise goes to a party, seeks out the boy she likes, and has mindblowingly great sex for a first timer. I assume that’s what’s happening, it’s either that or she was having some kind of seizure she was really enjoying. The boyfriend was slightly less pleased with this encounter. Not only did she reach completion before him, she rode him like a hobby horse. The pain etched on his face is quite funny.

A controversial character

The final character in Bloody Oranges with a prominent role is Le Detraque (Fred Blin). His character is the most controversial aspect of Bloody Oranges. Le Detraque rapes two of the other characters in this movie, one male and one female. Both scenes are brutal and, to the credit of the director, they are not played for laughs. What happens to Le Detraque however, is an over the top and quite brutal comeuppance. Fans of biblical, eye for an eye, justice will certainly appreciate the way this rapist gets his. It’s a scene not for the faint of heart.

Bloody Oranges' weirdest and most appealing trait is the strange tone that director Meurisse maintains throughout the film. The film isn’t happy or whimsical by any means but it does have an oddly light touch to the more biting and satirical moments. It’s a bold tone that risks our ability to sympathize with the agony some of these characters are going through. That said, I kind of enjoyed the incongruous tone, this sort of anti-drama, an unwillingness to pay off dramatic or suspenseful situations. Don’t get me wrong, scenes pay off but the most important scenes pay off with big shocks, jaw dropping, gory and disturbing payoffs.

Scenes of Sexual Violence

The portrayal of rape in Bloody Oranges is difficult to parse. The first rape scene is one where the victim is not sympathetic. The character is on his way to another sexual assault when he himself is sexually assaulted. Thus the rape scene plays like a well deserved vengeance, if rape can be portrayed that way. The second rape is meaner and more serious in nature. This one ends with the rapist on the receiving end of bloody, violent justice, and it is satisfying, in a way. I feel bad being okay with this, it feels wrong, but in context, I want terrible things to happen to these men for the crimes they committed.

Bloody Oranges is definitely a movie that plays in the gray areas of morality, to say the least. But it’s not merely shocking. There is a biting satire to be found in the character of the Finance Minister. This vapid himbo, thrust by privilege into a position of power is a blow dried dope getting by on good looks while cutting pensions and hiding money in Switzerland.

A very funny sequence

A scene of an interview with the Finance Minister, followed by a photo shoot, provides some terrific laughs. The movie sets up that the Finance Minister is going to be called out for hiding money and that creates comic tension for the interview scene which slowly dissipates like a deflating balloon. Instead of the righteous call out we want, we get just the kind of vapid encounter one expects of a morning television interview. No catharsis for us in his squirming, that will have to wait until we learn something even more heinous about this character.

It is undoubtedly manipulative on the part of the director and writers to create monstrous characters and invite us to enjoy their bloody fates. Bloody Oranges stacks the deck on this as the innocent characters suffer most at the hands of the evil characters. As Laurence and Olivier suffer at the hands of the Finance Minister’s awful policies and poor Louise finds herself kidnapped and tortured in the wake of her sexual awakening, we can’t help but want to see the evildoers punished.

Bloody Oranges is not for the faint of heart. The film features disturbing visual elements, bloody violence, gore, and sexual violence. All pitched at an oddly incongruous if not comic tone. The lightness of touch is at odds with what we are watching but oddly welcome. If the movie were more straightforward in tone it would be desperately oppressive. In a more straightforward take, Bloody Oranges would become akin to torture porn, that gross genre of film where the filmmakers tend to enjoy the violence they enact on innocent and guilty alike. Bloody Oranges may be shocking but certainly no one is enjoying it, aside from the lizard brain glee that comes from seeing someone get what's coming to them.

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About the author

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for Everyone's a Critic Movie Review Podcast. I am a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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