La Vengeance by Morsay
There are movies which are so very stupid, lame and caricatural that they cannot even be considered just as “bad movies”. They form a distinct category of films, so blatantly awful that watching them could become a very pleasant experience, should the audience envisage those pieces of work through the prism of irony. The first movie of the French rapper/T-shirts sellers/semi-notorious troublemaker and now candidate at the next presidential election (yes) undoubtedly belongs to this blessed category, transcending it’s own absolute voidness to become a kind of “instant classic”. It’s called “La Vengeance” (The Reckoning/Revenge) and it has been finally released* last Tuesday. Not in theaters obviously (movies are released on Wednesday’s in France), though I have no doubt that it was what Morsay originally planned for his masterpiece, but in the “marché aux puces” of Clignancourt, where brave souls could go and grab their precious copies of the movie. Fortunately enough for the rest of France (and for the Parisians who have little will to venture into Morsay’s den, but still want to watch his priceless delivery – for reasons that Morsay himself could not possibly imagine ), a die-hard fan took the courageous initiative** to make the movie freely available on streaming (you can – try to – watch it here). Have a seat, open yourself a drink, take a generous slice of pizza (it’s more than two hours long), and brace yourself for the impact.
The plot is, as in countless other very bad movies, extremly simple (even simplistic, but is is just my personal opinion): Morsay and his brother have their identities checked by the police. Morsay loses his nerves and single-handedly beats up half of the squad (because he is tired to be seen as the usual suspect every time that something happens in his block… It’s understandable, but his reaction is not very brilliant), but despite his best efforts, he is finally arrested (his brother too, though he didn’t take part in the brawl), juged and sent to jail for six months (after a parody of trial, of course). We then follow the two brothers’ quest for revenge (especially Morsay, for his brother prefers to sell T-Shirts, a highly lucrative business by all means, for he seems to have become a millionaire less than two days after he was released), that will push our two (anti) heroes to their very limits, and the audience to the edge of dementia.
Now, why should you watch this movie? Firstly because it is incredibly funny. Morsay and his friends (the “Truands de la Galère” that you could possibly translate by the Mess’ Mobsters… yes, it doesn’t mean a bloody thing, but I guess that it sounds good and that what’s really matter, uh?) possibly think that they have finely depicted the true reality of the poor French suburbs (“les banlieues”), but in reality, they fall so very short of the target that even the real suburbs’ inhabitants don’t take the movie seriously. Morsay seems to be quite happy with himself, though he somehow manages to embody all the clichés that people may have about the suburban youths: rude, macho, illiterate, violent, inactive… he is the kind of guy that you love to hate. But he goes a step further, by being also traitorous and utterly selfish, while suburbs’ gangs are adamant about loyalty and solidarity (or so they say at least). The strangest thing of all is that it’s his brother who gets the lion’s share, by becoming a succesfull entrepreneur in very little time, as well as remaining utterly loyal to Morsay, even when the latter behaves more stupidly than usual, while it is very clear that this movie is really an Morsay’s idea… One could legitimely thinks that Morsay would have been careful to appear as the undisputed hero in his own movie, but it is definitively not the case.
Second, Morsay and his minions are really awful actors. While it is very clear that no one bothered to write down the dialogues (it’s not a reproach, very good movies have been shot with improvising actors), Morsay’s particular diction makes his every intervention (and the are countless, for he is the hero, right?) a great moment. Remember the urban legend about the seconds-lasting memory capacity of goldfish? Well, according to that very theory, Morsay could be seen as the biggest clown fish on Earth: everytime he tries to make complex sentences, he has to stop after three seconds, think for three other seconds, before to painfully spit out the last few words. The only time when he appears to be fluent in French (which is his mother tongue, even if he proudly displays his Algerian roots at several occasions) is when he is insulting someone, which happens more than often. No more stutterings then, he becomes a verbal machinegun, and even if his vocabulary isn’t that very vast (with a strong taste for sexually-connoted harassement: “j’te baise/j’t’encule/j’te nique/j’te r’tourne” = “I violently make love to you”, “pédé/tafiole/tante/tapette” = “You have a strong taste in men, mister”, “fils de pute” = “your mother sells her tender attentions to strangers”, and so on), he can carry on for hours and hours with the unshakable zeal of the man who knows that he is right (or who is too stupid to change his point of view).
Third, because, though it is a very caricatural movie, ”La Vengeance” is a film made by suburbs’ youths, for suburbs’ youth, and thus, not that common. The last (good) movie dealing with the social realities of what good be considered as de facto ghettos was ”La Haine” by Matthieu Kassovitz, released in 1995. Since then, things have only become more complicated, the climax being the riots of November 2005, that lasted for as long as three weeks. True enough, Morsay only shows what he wants to show, and with a complete lack of objectivity and technical skills, but there are undoubtedly snippets of truth among the slabs of non-sense that make 90% of the movie.
Fourth, because Morsay and his movie are on the verge of becoming really famous in France. Morsay was relatively well known in the Parisians suburbs before the release of the film (he made a few videos that prove that he is not only a bad actor, but also a lame rapper and a reasonnably successfull T-shirt seller***), but with all the controversies around the release of the movie (Morsay cleverly pretended that both the Ministry of the Interior and the extreme-right parti ”Front National” made their best to avoid it exploitation, gaining scores of sympathizers in the operation), and his (most probably fake) candidacy to the next presidential election (a very good mediatic coup as well… Is Morsay really the complete dickhead that he seems to be, or is he cleverer than us?), it could very well be his moment very soon. If you want to talk about the French cinema, but haven’t had the courage or the opportunity to watch ”The Artist”. (I haven’t either), then you have to watch ”La Vengeance”. Stay hype!
Fifth, because you can watch it for free, so even if you don’t like it, you won’t regret if financially speaking.
Sixth and lastly, because it is a very good way to improve your grasp on the contemporary French language. Forget all that you have ever learnt about grammar, syntax and conjugation, it’s all crap. French is a very simple language, no matter what foreigners say. For instance, there is no need to inverse the verb and the subject of your sentence when you ask a question. Keep it the same way than for an affirmative sentence, and just rise the tone of your voice at the end of the phrase, and your French interlocutor will understand that you are asking him a question! How wonderful is that? For instance, don’t say: “Peux-tu me passer la baguette, s’il te plaît René?” (“Can you please give me the bread, René?”… boring, complex, old-fashionned French really… plus, no one under 60 wears this name any more), but say: “Tu peux me passer la baguette s’il te plaît René?”. Easy! But this is just the beginning! Thanks to our young suburbs geniuses, French is getting even simpler than that. Take the same sentence, and see how it is possible to squeeze it until it is reduced to it “substantifique moelle” as Rabelais could have said. So, don’t even bother to say: “Tu peux me passer la baguette s’il te plaît René?”, but say instead: “Le pain, gros!” (“gros” is a byword for everything, especially your human friends). So thanks to this priceless movie, you will become perfectly fluent in French in just two hours! Merci Pr Morsay!
As a conclusion, I think that ”La Vengeance” is a rather interesting movie, in it own very special way. Morsay is certainly a decerebrate hater, but even if he is, there is a rather touching naivety in his film, well hidden under the exacerbated virility that oozes from it every pore. And if he is not, then it is the most talented actor ever.
*: at long last, because the release of the movie was postponed at several occasions (due to the opposition of the French conservative intelligentsia, according to Morsay himself)
**: Morsay being a genial and understanding guy, no doubt that he will kindly thank his loyal minion by “niquer la chatte de sa grand-mère la reine des putes” (I won’t translate, but it’s French poetry at it very best…) if the identity of the goon is revealed .
***: If one thing, Morsay is a gifted catchphrases maker. Who wouldn’t want to wear a T-Shirt that says: “Je pisse sur la tête des racistes depuis le haut de la tour Eiffel” (I pee on the head of racists from the top of the Eiffel tower) or “Si tu m’aimes pas, va niquer ta mère” (If you don’t like me, go fuck your mother)?