Which of the following things actually happens in Mammuth? A) A woman makes a sculpture out of the remains of baby dolls B) Gerard Depardieu makes a sandwich out of tickets and ham C) Gerard Depardieu takes part in a two-man circle jerk with his male onscreen cousin? Well, it is in fact all of the above, as Mammuth is about as self-consciously weird as you can get.
Gerard Depardieu plays Serge Pilardosse, a slaughterhouse worker just taking his retirement. Despite having worked every day since he was 16, when Serge tries to claim his work pension, he finds that several of his employers have failed to declare his earnings prompting him to undertake a one-man road trip to reclaim his lost affidavits on his old 70s motorcycle, the Mammuth from which he derives his nickname.
Whilst on the road he meets old friends and long-lost family members, is visited by the spectre of his former love Yasmine (Isabelle Adjani) and begins to realise that people have always thought of him as an amiable buffoon. He also realises that many things have changed and rarely for the better.
Depardieu is enormous, sporting a girth that would rival Asterix’s obese pal Obelisk (a role he’s set to reprise next year in the latest of the badly conceived series) with lank, stringy hair which reaches to his waist – it’s probably not just because of the motorcycle that he got the moniker Mammuth.
Isabelle Adjani by contrast must have spent the last 20 years bathing in the blood of virgins, as were it not for the tell-tale expressionlessness of her face, she could easily pass for a woman in her late 20s despite pushing 55.
Crucially, Mammuth lacks the plot, sharp writing or the laughs needed to drive this kind of movie. It often seems self-consciously surreal rather than genuinely funny. It has its moments – Mammuth’s interactions with a fellow beach-comber armed with a metal detector are genuinely amusing but as it progresses, the jokes get thinner, the plot makes even less sense and it begins to feel like a series of poorly linked together offbeat vignettes rather than a coherent narrative.
It could have been a meditation on old age, obsolescence and the subjectivity of memory and indeed these motifs are touched upon but they’re buried beneath an avalanche of self-conscious kook. Mammuth is certainly a film which will leave you scratching your head. It’s just a shame that it’ll be more out of puzzlement than pertinence.