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Louise Courvoisier Vingt Dieux! Holy Cow Review

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Vingt Dieux (Holy Cow) | 2024 Cannes Film Festival Review

Vingt Dieux (Holy Cow) | 2024 Cannes Film Festival Review

Smells Like Entrepreneurial Spirit!: Courvoisier Climbs Up the Totone Poll

In her directorial debut, Louise Courvoisier delves into themes of altruism and resilience, navigating a narrative that straddles the line between a troubled past and an uncertain future. It’s got two muddied boots on both sides. Despite a future in doubt, the film pulsates with the vibrant energy of its protagonist, emblematic of an unwavering fighting spirit. Following in the footsteps of kid protagonists thrust into adult responsibilities, Vingt Dieux (also known by its international English title Holy Cow, a clever play on the film’s setting and the incredulity of its circumstances) Courvoisier adopts a tone and vibrant cinematic style reminiscent of Andrea Arnold or Ken Loach (think Sweet Sixteen). With a blend of playfulness and sincerity, the film captures the complexities of human desperation, inviting audiences to both admire and despise the multiple missteps – you’ll love to hate him, but miss him if he weren’t there type.

The film is essentially a portrayal of a way of life, epitomized by its protagonist, Totone (Clément Favreau). Introduced in his birthday suit, Totone conceals beneath the other layers a sense of uncertainty about his future, particularly regarding his responsibility to provide for his younger sister’s food and shelter. With his father’s passing, Totone’s knee-jerk reaction and how hard can it be mindset — must follow in the footsteps of his father – taking the job that demands responsibility (and waking up at the crack of dawn) that he was never outfitted with. Despite knowing that he can’t cut corners, Totone still opts to expedite the process.

Louise Courvoisier Vingt Dieux! Holy Cow Review

Co-written by the director and Théo Abadie, the film is set in the Jura region, which shares borders with the lush green (by chocolate lava due to dairy farming) mountain dream landscapes commonly associated with Switzerland. With Totone we navigate his naïveté and antiquated mindset, as he learns that, akin to the aging process of cheese, everything in life requires patience and diligence. In the end, it’s about applying and channelling his head-strong tenacity.

Louise Courvoisier Vingt Dieux! Holy Cow Review

Served up with warmth and a frantic energy, one look at the film credits and you’ll notice that it was always going to be a family affair with Courvoisier assembling a cast of non-actors to play the youth set — most profiled here don’t have much to say as they stick to the work but the filmmaker nonetheless coats them all with descriptive details. These characteristics add so much to what is basic premise stuff of siblings without adult supervision, tradition and a village. And there is plenty of fun witnessing the process — from the plotting to the stealing, the rural entrepreneurship to having faith in oneself. A blasphemous term in the French language – here, Vingt Dieux the children are not lesser than one god.

Reviewed on May 17th at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival – Un Certain Regard. 90 Mins.

★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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