His name is Blanchot, but he has little in common with the great philosopher and stylish writer beyond the fact that few people understand him. Blanchot is a man without qualities but with an unshakeable trust in his neighbor, as if his very life depended on it. Rejected by his wife and virtually ignored by his son, he happens to take the place of a recently purchased dog on a training course – and immediately realizes he has found his path. Being a dog becomes his reason for being, because being by someone’s side is always better than being alone.
Working from his own novel, Samuel Benchetrit builds a chilly comedy illuminated by the talent of Vincent Macaigne, who finds a perfect blend of surreal tones and extraterrestrial comedy in the lead role. His Blanchot is one of the finest inventions of the film year: irreverent and occasionally irritating in his constant subservience to others, Macaigne’s impersonation rests almost entirely on non-verbal acting, which only enhances the originality of the screenplay. His way of using Google, for instance, is based on a genuine desire to understand how things are connected, thus bringing out the sick side of the Internet. In the rest of the cast, Vanessa Paradis and Bouli Lanners play two dominant and cynical figures who provide the perfect foil for Monsieur Blanchot. Although based on a paradoxical storyline and veering into the style of Kaurismäki in its humor, beneath that surface Chien is more ambitious. Macaigne’s character is really a Geiger counter of the depths to which interpersonal relations have sunk. Even the apparently happy ending could be read in a different light, as a personal funeral oration for Western society.Carlo Chatrian