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Dead Man's Hand (Petits Misères) is an odd movie that seems to be a satire of consumerism but ultimately tries to become something deeper, with unsuccessful results.
Jean (Albert Dupontel) is a bailiff who spends his days confiscating goods from the heavily indebted. But what he doesn't know is that his depressed wife Nicole (Marie Trintignant), frustrated over his inability to sire children, is working out her problems through compulsive shopping under the tutelage of Jean's best friend Georges (Serge Larivière). Nicole and Georges also become lovers. Meanwhile, he also has to contend wit too-helpful cop Eddy (Bouli Lanners) who is slowing down the pace of his work.
The most notable element of this film is its surrealistic depiction of consumerism. From a scene in a supermarket, where the shoppers speed across the aisles in fast motion, to a shopping spree at a mall that becomes a dance number, the film adroitly skewers the consumerist mindset.
Unfortunately, the film is not a satire of consumerism. Rather, it's concerned with the domestic problems of Jean and Nicole, and her compulsive shopping is but a symptom of their martial woes. Jean and Nicole are simply not very interesting characters. The acting is just okay, although Trintignant steals what little there is to steal as the depressed Nicole. Even her bangs look like they're sad.
The movie starts to derail when Jean discovers Nicole's unfaithfulness and hatches a plan to resolve both his problems with her and with Eddy, with tragic results. Once the tragedy happens, the movie quickly resolves itself in an unsatisfying fashion. The movie actually tries for black comedy in its third act, but it doesn't work.
There's really not that much to say about this film, which is one of the entries in the Cine Europa 10 European film festival here in Manila. It's kind of obscure, which is not surprising. In fact, its sole claim to fame is the presence of Trintignant, whose career was cut short recently when she was murdered.
Is it worth watching? It's an okay enough time-passer, with a few funny and even inspired comic scenes. But its lack of substance and unsatisfactory resolution may make it seem more like a time-waster.
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