By José Sarmiento-Hinojosa
Plût au ciel que le lecteur, enhardi et devenu momentanément féroce comme ce qu’il lit, trouve, sans se désorienter, son hemin abrupt et sauvage, à travers les marécages désolés de ces pages sombres et pleines de poison ; car, à moins qu’il n’apporte dans sa lecture une logique rigoureuse et une tension d’esprit égale au moins à sa défiance, les émanations ortelles de ce livre imbiberont son âme comme l’eau le sucre.
Comte de Lautréamont – Les Chants de Maldoror
9 Doigts (2017) is F.J. Ossang’s further venture into the circles of hell.
Diogo Doria is the ferryman of Hades in Ossang’s Narrenschiff, this nautical prison that carries a gang of maudits, Baudelerian characters who are also prisoners of their own nihilism, ambitions, obsessions, taking a failed hit and running away to Nowhereland, a place made out of waste, a mobile island, carrying with themselves the weight of their failure, a toxic malaise that permeates the whole vessel: a Terminal Toxique, penetrating the waters of the Pacific Ocean, amidst a disease that slowly consumes them all, the descent of madness, noir torment, eternal punishment. The scent of betrayal, the ghostly presence of suicide, the temptation of the flesh incarnated in Drella’s (Lisa Hartmann) body, are Magloire’s (Paul Hamy) Stockholm Syndrome triggers, phantasms that push him against Kurtz’ (Damien Bonnard) squad, now both executioner and accomplice.
Always punk, always noir, F.J. Ossang’s post-apocalypse has no survivors. Everyone’s a victim of other people’s bullets, of their own bullets, of the condemnation of their past. 9 Doigts makes a perfect “black triptych of the apocalypse” with Treasure of the Bitch Islands (1990) and Dharma Guns (2010), both masterpieces of industrial atmospheres, where nuclear waste is a representation of the tragic ambitions of men. The gods are in revolt, and the sky blackens. The downward spiral through the seas is akin to the decaying spirit in the ship: as the earth claimed the visitors’ bodies on the Bitch Islands, the sea claims the souls of the wretched, until Magloire, the last soul is lost among the Azores, his bones drying up and becoming part of the salt of the earth. This fierce poetry is set against the background of a beautifully shot, unforgiving sea, with Ossang’s trademark expressionist black and white. The beauty of decadence is portrayed among the corridors of the ship, encased spaces where the crew slowly dies -or escapes.
One can hear the echoes of metallic walls crumbling against the rhythm of the seas, the pulsating vibrations of waves that join the catastrophe, the words of Ferrante (Pascal Gregory) that echoes Lautréamont as a lacerating spear against the ship, as if his own poetry would capsize the vessel itself with the prestidigitation of the death’s presence, embodied in The Doctor’s (Gaspard Ulliel) character, an Orphic figure who will further terminate the premonition: All cynics, all femme fatales will disappear. 9 Doigts also marks the return of Messageros Killer Boys (in its MKB Fraction Provisoire formation) with Loi des fantômes (with proper lyrics: all my fucking friends are fucking dead!) and Ossang and Jack Belsen’s team (also featuring the outstanding Elvire, who also plays Gerda in the film) behind the music. The ominous, dark undertones of the score match perfectly with the voyage, an oppressing climate which is accentuated just in precise moments.
Ossang has perfected his formula to a formal perfection that is incredibly outstanding: Noir punk expressionist post-apocalypse crime cinema, or maybe just in Nicole Brenez words(1), The Grand Insurrectionary Style, a remarkable chapter of cinema’s history that is still on the writing.
1Nicole Brenez: F.J. Ossang: The Grand Insurrectionary Style – http://www.lolajournal.com/1/ossang.html
Director: F.J. Ossang
Cast: Paul Hamy , Damien Bonnard, Pascal Greggory, Gaspard Ulliel, Lisa Hartmann, Lionel Tua, Elvire, Alexis Manenti, Diogo Dória
Producer: Sébastien Haguenauer, Bruce Satarenko, Luis Urbano
Cinematography: Simon Roca
Costumes: Karine Charpentier
Set Design: Rafael Mathe Monteiro
Screenplay: F.J. Ossang
Sound: Nicolas Becker, Julien Cloquet
Editing: Walter Mauriot
10:15 ! Productions