Directed by Eugène Green
“The Son of Joseph”, the newest drama from American-born French-based helmer/writer Eugène Green, was magnificently written, but felt a bit clumsy in its rendering.
Divided into five chapters, the film centers on Vincent (Victor Ezenfis), a frustrated teenager who keeps asking his lenient nurse mother, Marie (Natacha Régnier), about the father he has never seen. The answer is always the same: “you have no father”. Needless to say that, finding this secret unacceptable, he resolves to act on his own to finally reach the one who never showed any interest in him.
He finds out that Oscar Pormenor (Mathieu Amalric), a vain, self-centered publisher, is the man he desperately searched for his whole life. What he wouldn’t imagine is that Oscar is a satan’s servant, a despicable, greedy bastard who is unfaithful to his wife and doesn’t even know how many legitimate children he brought into this world.
Pretending to be a writer, Vincent infiltrates himself in his father’s arty circles and gets to know Violette Tréfouille (Maria de Medeiros), a disoriented literary critic, who, even appearing in only a couple of circumstances, becomes the funniest and more satisfying character of the film.
Vincent quickly realizes that his biological father is a lost battle, but unexpectedly stumbles upon the latter’s brother, Joseph (Fabrizio Rongione), a natural father figure with a kind temperament, a God believer and a farmer wanna-be, who immediately assumes the paternal role with joy and passion, bolstering it by dating with Vincent’s mother.
Green continues to adopt the same direct filmmaking style observed in his previous dramas, “La Sapienza” and “The Portuguese Nun”. Yet, here, despite some affinity with the cinema of Alain Resnais, he didn't get away from excessively mechanic dialogues and tacky postures that often catapult the theatrical modes of expression to a greater extent. Moreover, the visual aesthetics weren’t brilliant and we’re only left with the interesting biblical connotations of a tale that could have been more attractive if the tension hadn’t been injected so forcefully. By doing so, it just increased the contrivance of the scenes.
The absence of score is compensated with an extended live music act, performed with lute and voice, when son and ‘adoptive’ father were immersed in the Louvre's culture.
“The Son of Joseph” encompasses the following aspects: the artistic, the philosophical, the religious, the parenthood, the drama, the romance, and the satire. Question: was this enough for us to remember it in the future? Answer: No.