Patricia Mazuy, now six films deep in a three-decade-plus career with Saturn Bowling, has always risked a certain, tantrum-centric filmmaking, favoring characters with shared psychoses who butt heads with one another and all those around them. She alienates via general unpleasantness, but it’s even more rewarding to penetrate those barriers and discover the primalness that charges her work. In a filmography populated by violent burnouts, obsessives, and the like, Saturn Bowling still earns the distinction of being her most male film.
A pair of mildly estranged half-brothers, Armand (Achille Reggiani) and Guillaume (Arieh Worthalter), tenuously reunite following their father’s death, when it comes time to decide ownership of the family’s beloved, subterranean bowling alley. The former is effectively unhoused, spending his nights at his club security job after everyone’s left; he’s also desperate for sex, ogling any and all exposed flesh, masturbating in the rain, deploying failed pickup lines. Guillaume, too busy with his police work, offers the bowling alley to Armand, who also gets their father’s opulent apartment, decked out with snakeskin jackets, hunting trophies, rifles, and a German Shepard. It’s not long before Armand, his lack of self-control already telegraphed, commits a murder or two.
Mazuy attempts an impressive gambit of divided perspectives, Armand’s unsettlingly impressionistic subjectivity shifts to a more procedural temperament after that first shock of violence. The first murder explains the rest, and thus, we’re only subjected to one interval of absolutely misogynistic depravity; to achieve restraint, Mazuy indulges just once. Guillaume has to shoulder that moral weight of suspecting his half-brother, while navigating the vicissitudes of his own life. The film admittedly loses momentum as it mounts toward a more straightforward climax that isn’t exactly expected from the prologue’s disorienting visual and aural excisions, where the dramatic development lumbers along in a gait similar to the seething Armand. Perhaps if Saturn Bowling were intent on a more equal alternation between brothers, as in 1989’s Thick Skinned, it would play as less mismatched than it ultimately is. Thankfully, then, at least, the muscle of this experiment is still commendable enough in and of itself, leaving plenty enough to chew on despite some notable imbalance.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 10.