Babysitter: A hilarious hallu [critique]

After My Brother’s Wife, Monia Chokri confirms her nature as a modern and ultra-inventive filmmaker with this post-MeToo farce between cartoon and horror tale.

A group of guys, captured in very close-ups, cut the end of the fat before an MMA match. They bawl, sputter, gulp down liters of beer, flirt with the two women seated in front of them, before the ring girls in minishorts don’t come to kick off. The camera lingers on the buttocks of the girls, their breasts, then the fighters start banging on each other. Blood soon spurts out, splashes across the immaculate arena… Wait, wait, where are we? We are in Baby sitter, second feature film by Monia Chokri, which imposes from the outset an almost exhausting tempo of supercharged cartoon. His first movie, My brother’s wife, already testified to the temperament of a clipper filmmaker, very funny, gifted in capturing the spirit of the times, a follower of bewitching musical digressions and colorful kaleidoscopes. In a Pavlovian journalistic reflex and a bit condescending, we had concluded that the actress revealed at Xavier Dolan (Imaginary lovers) would become a filmmaker dolaniennenne, according to the tradition which wants the muses passing behind the camera to make films which resemble those of their pygmalion (from the Scorsesian Robert De Niro to the Bergmanian Liv Ullmann, from the Millerian Mel Gibson to the Kechichian Hafsia Herzi). Except that Baby sittertoday, tumbles like a UFO with no real equivalent.

But let’s resume: after the MMA match, our drunken friends cross paths with a sports commentator on live TV. Cédric (the very funny Patrick Hivon, already present in My brother’s wifea kind of Jim Cummings from La Belle Province) kisses the journalist in front of the camera, screaming “ I love you Chantal “. He returns home, sober, and discovers when he wakes up that the video of his stolen kiss has gone viral. Immediately fired by his employer (Ingénierie Québec), he will begin to reflect on the foundations of his misogyny thanks to the coaching of his brother, a well-meaning nerd with sweet manners (Steve Laplante, hilarious), who will convince him to write a letter apologies to said Chantal, then outright a book, which could well become a feminist bestseller. While the two men “guy” and gargle about their new political commitment, Nadine (Monia Chokri), Cédric’s wife, who has just given birth, languishes in postpartum depression. In the meantime, Amy (Nadia Tereszkiewicz), a mischievous babysitter, looks like a mini-Bardot, who likes to come to work in a maid’s outfit, and will act on the household a bit like the Terence Stamp of Theorem or the maid played by Jeanne Moreau at Buñuel, pushing her employers to confront their unconscious and buried desires, to question their taboos, and thus reveal their true nature. What is this mysterious babysitter hiding? It is not forbidden to consider it as a walking allegory of the #MeToo tornado.

Adapting here a play by Catherine Léger, Monia Chokri signs a humorous inventory of the new relationships between men and women, but armed with the conviction, ultimately not so common as that, that comedies of manners are not condemned to be shapeless and ugly stuff to look at. She talks about society at the moment T, yes, but by first making films, sprinkling her film with burlesque shrillness à la Coen, soaking her little domestic circus in horrifying and paranoid imagery straight from the heights of seventies jitters. Ghosts arise in the night, the babysitter’s voice takes on a cavernous sound worthy of the demon Pazuzu at nightfall, Chokri wanders around in an outfit she could have borrowed from Countess Bathory, the soundtrack openly quotes one of the music the most iconic and captivating of François de Roubaix, that of the vampire film red lips, thus taking the film to the shores of a chic and decadent symbolism… We are not that far off from this neo-giallo vogue that has been raging all over the world for the past ten years (among filmmakers as different as the Englishman Peter Strickland, the Frenchman Yann Gonzalez, the Belgians Cattet and Forzani, the Italian Luca Guadagnino), but without the snobbish veneer that condemns some of them to go around in circles in a referential impasse with no way out. Chokri, she uses these models to observe the great mess of contemporary mores, a huge smile on her face. And imposes a truly unique tone. Chokrian? Chokriesque? We will have to think about updating our dictionary of adjectives.

By Monia Chokri. With Nadia Tereszkiewicz, Monia Chokri, Patrick Hivon… Duration 1h28. Released April 27, 2022

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