Tactile in texture, the blood orange is a unique savoury treat. A mixture of citrus and raspberry-flavoured delight, the fruit is notoriously known to be a ‘harder to peel’ form of vegetation in contrast with the everyday orange. It’s a fruit that is distinctly metaphorical; a garden of eden work of wonders. It’s surprising how little the blood orange is utilised as an easy gateway for brash symbolism; an object that is more or less rarely seen in contemporary media. All the better, since in the case of Jean-Christophe Meurisse’s latest venture into the surreal, the fruit’s blatant and blunt contextual connotation found within the film’s title is what ultimately enforces Bloody Oranges’ weightless social critique.
An elderly couple on the brink of overwhelming debt, a financial minister attempting to shelter his money laundering schemes, and a sex-starved teenager all unite on one fateful night where devilish depravity ensues. It’s quite the Altman-esque inspired saga; a film hellbent on utilising the most out of its interconnected chaos for vile and trashy effect. There’s even a bit of subtext in regards to the perception of escalating violence, corruption, and dishonesty within the French social sphere. Bloody Oranges is a strangely endearing portrait of a country constantly faced with internal revolt, where it morphs into a potent reflection of Parisian rage — a country with a beautiful external layer and a blood-red core.
Yet Bloody Oranges never earns its nihilistic self-pity, particularly due to its lack of any further thematic development. Jean-Christophe Meurisse’s screenplay is as surface level as it gets, where its thesis is presented with a loose framework of bickering comedic sketches. Self awareness doesn’t equate to proactive commentary; neither does multiple needless grotesque rape scenes that are played for laughs. Borderline irresponsible and hypocritical in these scenes of immoral extremism, the violence presented onscreen never feels particularly earned, due to the film’s shallow lack of strong central commentary. Strange stylistic choices are also present, including the implementation of alternating aspect ratio shifts —indicating a turn in the thematically-driven character perspective— only to be left behind after the film’s boorish first act.
Bloody Oranges is a nuisance; a film with a tiresome purpose that never breaks past its comfort zone and its sporadic moments of gruesome gore. By prominently focusing on the purely domestic, Meurisse’s dark comedy of human errors fails to appropriately represent its promising thesis. It’s a film where payoffs lack a certain amount of motive and consequence, a somewhat dreadful albeit affecting work of genre emulation that haphazardly navigates its way through the suburbs of present-day Paris. What is left of the four core characters and their barbaric downfalls are the skins of rotten oranges; a delicious delicacy neglected by Jean-Christophe Meurisse’s maltreatment of his seeded fruit.