Draper In Paris
By Adam Sturrock
99 Francs (2007)
Director: Jan Kounen
Writer: Nicolas & Bruno, Jan Kounen
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Vahina Giocante, Jocelyn Quivrin
A frolicking, dark and surreal satire on the marketing business, a bare-bones plot holds the movie back from being exceptional. Octave Parango (Dujardin) is a thirty-something copywriter for a major advertising company. Obnoxious, arrogant, charming, Parango is the french equivalent of DiCaprio’s Jordan Beford; where one film mocked the excess of Wallstreet, the other satires advertising and how life is dictated by the chosen few in Armani suits.
Floppy haired and drug fuelled, Dujardin does a fine job in his portrayal of the character, unfortunately, the focus on his surreal escapades through advertising and life successfully avoids the possibility of a coherent plot. There is only one thing we do know, at the start of the film he is recapping his life prior to a suicide attempt, which highlights his pubescent admiration of “sophisticated pictures”. Throughout the film, it openly mocks the fetishisation of everyday products with overblown marketing campaigns and smart references to real life big brands. In a brief relationship in the film, Durango struggles to compliment a woman that doesn’t involve a product to enhance herself – consumerism has taken over his life for the better or worst.
Filmed almost completely in French, I struggled at times to keep up even with subtitles, but what was portrayed was understood even with the cultural differences. Darkly funny, Parango mocks the audience by announcing that he controls how you think; true, we ravenously consume the latest iPhone or yoghurt at a moments notice after seeing a billboard in Times Square and this brings into question to what extent do we control our lives, do we truly choose everything we buy? The film even comments on how products are marketed to us and how often it is a cliched, cluttered mish-mash of ideas that are aimed to reach a certain audience; there is no time for art or being grand– a funny scene involving a photographer being engrossed in the shooting of a sauerkraut is an example of this.
With an interesting subject matter and equally entertaining main character, 99 Francs is a clever, if not muddled satire on advertising.