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TRANSILVANIA 2018

Review: Black Tide

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- Érick Zonca’s crime-thriller is being screened in the Supernova sidebar at the Transilvania IFF

Review: Black Tide
Vincent Cassel in Black Tide

A missing teenager, an alcoholic detective and the boy’s nosy former French tutor do not succeed in creating an exactly engrossing mystery in Érick Zonca’s crime-thriller Black Tide [+see also:
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, which is being screened at the 17th edition of the Transilvania International Film Festival (25 May-3 June, Cluj-Napoca), in the Supernova sidebar. Contrived and weighed down by clichés and inexplicable mannerisms, the story loses its punch before the rather underwhelming finale.

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Vincent Cassel stars as detective François Visconti, whose trench coat and peculiar gait make him look like a younger, sweatier, alcohol-guzzling Columbo. Visconti is assigned to the Arnault case: high-school student Dany has been missing for a day when his desperate mother Solange (Sandrine Kiberlain) calls the police. At first, Visconti is sure that Dany has just run away from a troubled home environment (a father always away from home, a sister with Down syndrome), but an anonymous call to the police convinces the detective to try new approaches. The input of Mr Bellaile (Romain Duris), the Arnaults’ neighbour and Dany’s former private tutor, complicates the investigation even further…

An adaptation of the Israeli crime novel The Missing File by Dror MishaniBlack Tide suffers owing to an ill-constructed, unlikeable protagonist and a clumsy plot, which is not entirely predictable but somehow makes the audience’s need to know what happened to the missing teenager evaporate completely. The screenplay, written by Zonca together with Lou de Fanget Signolet, uses a subplot centring on Visconti’s 16-year-old son, who may or may not be a drug dealer, in order to create a justification for the detective to become truly preoccupied with his new case as, perhaps, a form of compensation. Unfortunately, the detective’s parenting is more than rebarbative, while his aggressiveness, his drunken rants against his former wife and his ultra-misogynistic behaviour towards female colleagues make him not exactly a villain, but simply a protagonist one just doesn’t want to spend 113 minutes with. It is a pity that Cassel put such dedication into creating such a disappointing character.

The story is partly saved by Mr Bellaile, played by a very smooth, slippery Duris. A French teacher and an aspiring writer, Bellaile has very strong opinions about what may have happened to his former student, and these theories soon start to make sense, at least from a certain perspective. His contribution to the story comments on how fiction is able to become reality, which is an unexpected and intriguing breath of fresh air in a rather dull and strained plot. And when one finds out that The Missing File is just the first novel in a trilogy, one may wish that Visconti would drink himself to death before embarking on any other cinematic adventures.

Black Tide was produced by Curiosa Films (France), and co-produced by Playtime (formerly known as Films Distribution and also the film’s world sales company) and Venus Production (Belgium). Black Tide will be released in several European countries starting next August.

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