THE AGITATOR: THREE PROVOCATIONS FROM THE WORLD OF JEAN-PIERRE MOCKY. Review by Steve Kirkham

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THE AGITATOR: THREE PROVOCATIONS FROM THE WORLD OF JEAN-PIERRE MOCKY

4 stars
Radiance Films. Limited Edition Blu ray. 1st July

Radiance continue to surprise with releases from all corners of the filmic world – I have to admit I had never heard of Jean-Pierre Mocky, but looking at his credits, he was a prolific filmmaker and was not only a director. He was also an actor, writer, producer, editor and has many credits within cinema.

LITAN (1982)
This is probably the film in this set that most closely aligns with the sensibilities of Dark Side, being a weird, sort of folk horror.

It opens with random imagery – a band playing, silver masks, bright red jackets intercut with various other oddities, as a woman, Nora (Marie José Nat) observes and screams. She awakens from this nightmare and tries to contact her lover Jock (played by director Mocky). Told he is at the Black Rocks she rushes to find him. Outside there is a thick fog. Everything is surreal and odd. Folk in masks rushing about. As she waits for a bus, a man is crushed to death by a van!

She flags down the vehicle carrying the band from her dream as men in fez’s carry a silver coffin. The transport breaks down and she continues on foot. Meanwhile a troop of Boy Scouts are chasing a “monster” (one of them in yet another mask).

All this in the opening minutes of this freaky film.

Locating her boyfriend she tells him she thought he was dead – but are her visions actually premonitions of what is to come?

As things progress everything gets weirder and more abstract. Dreamlike scenes collide with each other, to give a sense that all is not right in Litan… as the townspeople celebrate a special day of the dead. What does it all mean? Does it matter?

The film, shot by Edmond Richard, looks fabulous on this Blu ray – even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense and feels wilfully abstract. The groovy music by Nino Ferrer is at times jaunty and sometimes is wholly inappropriate to what is happening on screen. The locations are well chosen – it was shot in Annonay in France.

KILL THE REFEREE (A mort l’arbitre!) (1984)
This is a horror of a more realistic kind as it explores football hooliganism and the violence that can engender.

When their team lose the European Cup due to a penalty, the fans blame the referee Maurice (Eddy Mitchell). Instead of taking their gripes to the pub, one group of fans decide to take things to the next level.

Lead by the particularly nasty Rico (Michel Serrault), they spot the ref on a TV show and crash the studio, to try and get to him. Managing to escape with his girlfriend Martine (Carole Laure), the enraged supporters are soon in pursuit and this leads to both violence and ultimately death.

Director Mocky plays the ineffectual police superintendent Granowski, who along with his female partner Phillipon (Sophie Moyse) doesn’t do much to prevent what is happening.

Full of despicable and unlikeable characters – even the referee Maurice isn’t a particularly nice chap, this was based on the 1972 novel “The Death Penalty” and can be seen as a criticism of how fanatical football supporters can be – with this positing a complete breakdown of any morals. It shows how quickly things can get out of hand, though some of the actions by the group are almost comical. The odd music by Alain Chamfort undercuts the effectiveness of some of the action. This is social commentary mixed in with a thriller.

Eddy Mitchell (real name Claude Moine) was a successful French rock n’roll singer in the late 50s, early 60s. Michel Serrault, who is excellent here as the reprehensible Rico, is probably best known for his role in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (1978), though he had a long and varied career in both theatre and film.

It looks great on this Blu ray with a crisp image and punchy colours – with special emphasis on the team colour of yellow.

AGENT TROUBLE (1987)
This a more straightforward affair – a mystery thriller starring Catherine Deneuve as Amanda Weber.

She works in a museum, and when her nephew Victorien (Tom Novembre) comes to visit, he asks for her help. Whilst out hitchhiking, he had come across a coach stopped by the roadside and found all the passengers on board were dead – seeing an opportunity he purloined their belongings from their pockets and their jewellery, and he now needs somewhere safe to hide them.

It becomes clear that there is some kind of cover-up in play to hide what happened to the passengers and Victorien is pursued by an assassin Alex (Richard Bohringer). But can Amanda get to the bottom of what is going on?

Kristin Scott Thomas appears in an early role as a prostitute.

Based on the novel “The Man Who Loved Zoos” by Malcolm Bosse, this has good cast, headed up by Deneuve and a score by Gabriel Yared that tries to make it appear more exciting than it actually is, as there is never any real sense of tension. More commercial than the other two offerings in this set, it attempts to be Hitchcockian but doesn’t fully succeed, ending up as a middling thriller.

Steve Kirkham

EXTRAS 4 stars
LITAN
Small Town Masquerade: Love Death and Dreams in Litan – Critic Anton Bitel explores the film and its symbolism. Interesting stuff; Archival interview with Jean-Pierre Mocky called “A Funny Bird” from 1982 where he talks about trying to make a fantasy film in France, about dreams and also his films The Big Score and The Witness (12 mins); Archival Behind the scenes documentary produced for French television in 1982 (26 mins)

KILL THE REFEREE
Newly filmed interview with journalist and broadcaster Philippe Auclair explores why Mocky chose to make the film and how it became a talking point, plus it’s continued relevance today and how it was in many ways prescient (2024) (17 mins); Interview with Mocky’s assistant Eric Leroy about working on Kill the Referee from 2022 (13 mins); Archival 1987 French TV interview with Jean-Pierre Mocky from a TV show called Le Divan (On the Sofa) where the interviewee literally sits on a sofa. A career overview, plus talks about his parents and early life and becoming an actor. Working for Fellini and Visconti and then moving on to be a director (18 mins); Television set report from a 1983 episode of ‘Mardi Cinéma’ with interviews with Michel Serrault, Mocky, Eddy Mitchell and Carole Laure during filming Kill the Referee (5 mins); Trailer

AGENT TROUBLE
Archival interview from 1987 with Catherine Deneuve on Agent Trouble (5 mins)
Archival interview from 1987 with Richard Bohringer on Agent Trouble (5 mins)
Interview from 2022 with Eric Le Roy, Mocky’s friend and collaborator discusses Agent Trouble and how it fits into the director’s other work (13 mins); Interview from 2022 with Olivia Mokiejewski, Mocky’s daughter and a documentarian introducing Agent Trouble (4 mins)

Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Time Tomorrow
Limited edition 80-page book featuring new writing by Roberto Curti, Nathaniel Thompson and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, and newly translated archival interviews including Serge Toubiana on Jean-Pierre Mocky, and Oliver Assayas on Michel Serrault, as well as an on-set report of Kill the Referee

Limited to 3000 copies