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Eat Your Bones | 2015 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema Review

Family Matters: Hue’s Continued Fascination With Yenish Community

Jean-Charles Hue Eat Your Bones PosterDirector Jean-Charles Hue continues with the exploration of the Yenich community, a nomadic group of people that would be referred to as gypsies in passing parlance, with his third feature, Eat Your Bones, which premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival in the Directors’ Fortnight program. Partially autobiographical due to Hue’s (a growing multimedia artist) distant relations, the film follows his 2010 title The Lord’s Ride, utilizing some of the same non-professional cast members here as well (in reality, most of them are members of the family being depicted). While the previous film was seen as hybrid of narrative and documentary formats, Hue’s latest injects film noir tropes into its examination of familial bonds amongst a vaguely defined colony where values conflict with the staunch grip of Christianity which seems to paralyze the residents whenever they aren’t committing blatant crimes.

Eighteen year old Jason Dorkel (Jason Francois) rides around with a shotgun on the back of his cousin Moise’s (Moise Dorkel) moped. We learn that Jason’s older brother Fred (Fred Dorkel) is about to be released from prison after a fifteen year prison sentence, and Moise, a devout Christian, is concerned that Jason will follow in his brother’s footsteps. Convinced that all will be well if Jason will get baptized, Fred suddenly appears and causes discomfort and upheaval when he races through the community. The middle brother, Mickael (Mickael Dorkel) has clearer memories of Fred, and tension brews between them. Genial and happy to be home, Fred recites his youthful life of crime proudly, as he used to steal trucks of food to feed his family, a crime which ultimately soaked up the last decade and a half of his life. Yet Fred shows no signs of wanting to lead a Christian or law abiding existence. Quickly, a plot is hatched to knick a truckload of copper, an idea that originated with Jason. Moise reluctantly tags along with the band of brothers, mostly to be protective, with no qualms of letting it be known what he really feels about Mickael and Fred’s influences. Unfortunately, their heist doesn’t go quite as planned.

If Bruno Dumont’s Life of Jesus or Harmony Korine’s Gummo had film noir aspirations they would seem right at home with Hue’s Eat Your Bones. It’s extended first half feels like an uncomfortable examination of how mind numbing religion simply keeps people stuck in an endless rut, the hypocrisy of their Jesus rambles at laughable odds with how they live their daily lives (not unlike the ragtag Christian teens of Nothing Bad Can Happen).

It’s difficult to see beyond this superficial sheen of white trash, but its action packed finale allows for a moment of grace for the monstrously out-of-touch Fred. The nonprofessional cast is uniformly believable, while DoP Jonathan Ricquebourg captures a sun soaked melancholy not unlike what Yves Angelo does for a similarly disenfranchised locale in Francois Dupeyron’s compelling One of a Kind (2013). Ultimately, Eat Your Bones manages to be engrossing despite its rather familiar beats, perhaps made most intriguing because these are actual family members engaging in activities that aren’t really removed from incidents in their daily lives.

Reviewed on March 9 for the 2015 Rendezvous w/French Cinema at the Lincoln Center – 94 Mins.

★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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