SXSW 2020 Review: Figurant (dir by Jan Vejnar)

Clocking in at just 14 minutes, the French/Czech co-production, Figurant, is about as unsettling of a film as I’ve recently seen.

Trying to explain just what exactly happens in the film is not easy.  It’s not just that I don’t want to spoil the film.  It’s also that the film itself is a bit of a mystery.  It’s a riddle.  It’s an enigma.  It’s a dream of dark and disturbing things and the story doesn’t always lead to the destination that you may be expecting.

It’s the story of a man who is played by Denis Lavant.  We never learn the man’s name, nor do we learn much about his past.  He may be homeless, he may not.  He’s a quiet and withdrawn man, one who mostly communicates in apologetic grunts.  When he sees a group of younger men walking into a warehouse, he follows them.  When two men sitting behind a table give him a scornful look and ask if they’re even supposed to take men like him, he keeps quiet.  He accepts every insult with the quiet resignation of a man who is used to being on the outside looking in.

In a backroom, two women take Lavant’s clothes from him and place them in a garbage bag.  They gave him a military uniform to wear.  Lavant doesn’t seem to know why he’s being asked to dress like a soldier but he does so anyway.  When the other men march down a hallway, he follows.  When they enter a trailer, he follows.  When he’s told to sit in a chair in front of a mirror, he does just that….

Throughout it all, everyone except for Lavant seems to understand what’s going on.  Lavant simply follows along and goes where he is told.  No matter how weird or violent things become around him, Lavant continues to follow….

There are multiple twists towards the end of the film.  I would say that I correctly predicted 50% of the twists and that the other twists took me totally by surprise.  In fact, I’m still fully working out the film in my head.  Figurant is one of those wonderfully surreal and dream-like films that just sticks with you.  It may only be 14 minutes long but you’ll be thinking about it for hours afterwards.

Lavant does a great job and is sympathetic in the lead role.  Director Jan Vejnar creates a perfectly ominous atmosphere, filling the film with images that are sometimes threatening and occasionally surprisingly peaceful.  Figurant is one that will stick with you and. through May 6th, it can be viewed for free on Prime.

The LAFCA Rejects Zero Dark Thirty And Embraces Amour

Oscar season continued today as the Los Angeles Film Critics Association named their picks for the best in 2012.  The winners are listed below:

Runner-up: “The Master”

Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master”)
Runner-up: Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”)

Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”)
Runner-up: Denis Lavant (“Holy Motors”)

Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”)
Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”)

Dwight Henry (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”)
Runner-up: Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”)

Amy Adams (“The Master”)
Runner-up: Anne Hathaway (“The Dark Knight Rises”; “Les Miserables”)

Chris Terrio (“Argo”)
Runner-up: David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”)

Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg (“Zero Dark Thirty”)
William Goldenberg (“Argo”)

Roger Deakins (“Skyfall”)
Runner-up: Mihai Malaimare Jr. (“The Master”)

“The Master”
Runner-up: “Moonrise Kingdom”

Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”)
Runner-up: Johnny Greenwood (“The Master”)

“Holy Motors”
Runner-up: “Footnote”

Runner-up: “It’s Such a Beautiful Day”

“The Gatekeepers”
Runner-up: “Searching for Sugar Man

Over on and, all the usual suspects seem to be shocked that Zero Dark Thirty didn’t win best picture and happy that Beasts of the Southern Wild got some love.  A lot of the people leaving comments are also upset that The Master got as many votes as it did.  Over at Goldderby, one visitor found the time to comment, “Those votes for The Master should have been tossed in the trash, along with the film itself!” before going back to his usual routine of waiting to see if any celebs had responded to his twitter follow request.

As far as Amour winning best picture is concerned, I’m happy to see another film win a major critics’ award because seriously, Oscar season can get pretty boring when only one film is winning everything in sight.

As for Beasts of the Southern Wild, this is one of those times when I find myself respectfully disagreeing with just about every other reviewer out there (including our very own Leonth3Duke, whose excellent review can be read here).  The film had its moments (and I do think that Dwight Henry was the best thing in the film) but, for the most part, it left me cold.  Then again, I’ve never had much patience for the myth of the noble savage.

As for The Master, it’s one of the best of the year.  Deal with it.