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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Sitcom
Sitcom
New Yorker Video // R // January 13, 2004
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted January 29, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

It's been a while since I've watched a movie that was quite as perplexingly pointless as Sitcom. This French film is labeled a "dark comedy," but if the filmmakers were genuinely trying to make a comedy, they ought to get a refresher course on the concept of "humor," because if there's one word that I wouldn't use to describe Sitcom, it's "funny."

The film opens up with a static shot of the exterior of a lovely house. A man arrives and enters the house; we hear a chorus of "Happy birthday" singing, which is abruptly cut short by gunshots, presumably as the man kills everyone in the house. The film then takes us to "several months earlier" where, presumably, we will learn what events led up to this gruesome denouement. It's kind of a stretch to see how this is going to be humorous, but OK, it's dark comedy; we can run with it.

Unfortunately, Sitcom soon shows its true colors: it's absurdity for its own sake. The film is a bizarre concoction of senseless events and pointless surrealism. It doesn't appear to be parodying anything; it doesn't seem to be making any sort of statement with its surrealism; it just seems to be a nihilistic exercise in bizarreness for its own sake.

The story centers around a rat that the father brings home one day. As the various family members touch the rat, they're altered in some way, making them behave in peculiar ways: sudden homosexuality for the son, suicidal tendencies and a sadomasochistic fetish for the daughter, incestuous impulses for the mother. And while I can't reveal what happens to the father because it would constitute a spoiler (if you have so much free time that you actually want to waste some of it on this film), I can say that it is beyond bizarre. You might ask (as I did) what the significance of the rat is. Well, that's a good question, and one that's certainly not answered in the film. My guess is that it's just one more pointless, weird element in a film whose directorial slant seems to be "Weird stuff happens, just because I'm making a film and I can throw in all the weird stuff I want to!"

Even if you stand the increasing surrealism of the main plot, you'll end up feeling cheated by the end, which plays out as if the director had second thoughts about the way he was concluding the story, and tacked on an additional segment to distract viewers from how utterly ridiculous the whole thing was.

The DVD

Video

Sitcom is presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors are handled well, looking bright and clean; contrast is not so good, however, and dark areas tend to look excessively dark, with detail getting lost. A few print flaws show up, but the print as a whole is clean. The close-up shots look reasonably sharp, but any middle- to long-distance shots are quite soft and blurry.

Optional English subtitles are included.

Audio

The French Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is reasonable, providing a clean overall sound with no distortion or background noise. The dialogue is clear and understandable.

Extras

The main special feature here is a six-minute short film by director Fran├žois Ozon called "Photo de Famille." It's a silent film that has as its premise an apparently happy family being systematically murdered by one of its members. On the one hand, it's completely pointless and repulsive; on the other hand, it's quite revealing as to Ozon's obsessions as played out in greater detail in Sitcom.

We also get a trailer for the film.

Final thoughts

Surrealism and absurdity can be used to great effect in film, but in Sitcom we get a glaring example of bizarreness for its own sake. This story of familial murder and sexual obsessions is billed as a dark comedy, but it's neither funny nor interesting, and I advise that viewers stay far away from it. Even at only an hour and 15 minutes of running time, it's still a massive waste of time. Skip it.

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