The best way I can think of describing “Bloody Oranges (Oranges Sanguines)” is unapologetically French. This will be either a positive or negative characterization based on your personal tolerance for irony, cynicism, and joyless negativity. This twisted tale of mildly (and not so mildly) reprehensible characters (including a crooked politician suspected of tax fraud, an abusive pervert, a bankrupt retired couple, and a sexually charged teenager) whose separate stories are brought together through a rock dance competition is surreal, uncomfortable, and cramped with dark social satire.
Outlining the plot would prove futile, because this is the type of film where people that love it will scoff and tell others that if you don’t like it or “get it,” then it wasn’t intended for you in the first place. This is a practice I despise, especially with foreign language films. First, the script has very European sensibilities and is outrageously absurdist and surreal. It’s dialogue-heavy and intellectual when it comes to political discourse, but those not as worldly may struggle with some of the thematic elements. Second, sometimes the humor is lost in translation, leading you to feel that there’s something you’re obviously supposed to find funny, but you aren’t laughing.
Director Jean-Christophe Meurisse has a keen eye for an appropriate visual style for this material, especially when he is trying to inflict more discomfort. The shocking tonal shift is jarring and harsh, and the film looks as strange as it reads. The screenplay is penned by a trio of writers (Yohann Gloaguen, Jean-Christophe Meurisse, Amélie Philippe) and is sometimes challenging but always talky (a very non-PC conversation opens the movie). Some of the individual stories are more engaging than others, and the common plot device seems forced. As the film piles on the shock factor and adds in a revenge subplot, it loses what very little semblance of structure it was already barely holding on to.
I can’t decide whether I loved or hated “Bloody Oranges,” but it started to try my patience just 15 minutes in. It’s not even the type of project that rewards viewers for sticking with it, so unless you are a fan of bizarre midnight movies, I would skip this one.