Review: The Torch: Raiders of Chupacabra

The torch makes it possible to draw up a kind of inventory of humor in France, of which almost all the tendencies are represented here: we will be able to recognize, among others, a star youtuber (Mister V) and an old trucker from one man show (Jérôme Commandeur), alongside actors and actresses from very different backgrounds, some from the Canal + team, others from mainstream comedies or auteur cinema (Darmon, Merad, Bekhti, Exarchopoulos , etc.). From this heterogeneous and promising cast, it is regrettable that the series does not draw much: most of the characters stick to illustrating a comic “type” (the influencer, the zealous cop, the bon vivant, the conspirator… ) from which almost none manages to free themselves. It is not the slightest defect of the series to confine its actors to a score isolated from that of his comrades, whose well-felt replies seem at first promised to becoming social media memes. Still, the thing is hardly surprising when we remember that Jonathan Cohen, but also his co-authors Florent Bernard and Freddy Gladieux, all come from Youtube, from which they export on the small screen the taste for the valves delivered at a flow of machine gun . Hence the feeling of witnessing a compilation of good words, reinforced by the pastiche of the codes of reality TV, so much the shots with the handheld camera, put end to end by the editing, aim to isolate each projection. If something is obviously not working at the scale of the group, we will note that from the fourth episode, devoted to a treasure hunt on the island of Chupacabra, the clans of the Nullos and the Mojitos are divided into smaller groups of two or three actors, a way of restricting dialogue scenes so that the nuances of the performance of each performer emerge. Absent before the third episode, Alexandra (Leila Bekhti), the psychopath madly in love with Marc (Jonathan Cohen), brings in this respect welcome breaks in rhythm in the rather monotonous writing of the series. Yelling the bachelor’s name all the time, she shifts the center of gravity of the series around her mere presence and her hoarse voice, the unpredictable surge of which gives a burlesque tone to her appearances. This way of tightening up the scenes therefore makes it possible to rediscover the liveliness of the exchanges of The flame, where each episode was devoted to the interview between Marc and one of his suitors. Because, despite their differences in facade, the two series basically follow the same logic of writing: the troupe takes second place, in favor of a series of duets operating the unexpected encounter between two actors.

And it is precisely in these face-to-face meetings that Jonathan Cohen truly exploits his talent as an actor. The flame proved to be truly inspired during his exchanges with Pierre Niney in the role of Doctor Juiphe: the pastiche of the kitsch aesthetic of the Bachelor was erased behind a minimal device, a simple shot-reverse shot able to accommodate the improvisations of the two actors. However, with this parody of a new reality TV show, Marc ceases to be the center of attention to become, for a time at least, a candidate like the others. From his remonstrances against the program when he arrived on the island to the creation, in the middle of the series, of a new clan in his name (the Marcs), the trajectory of the Torch basically consists in giving back the central place to its showrunnerof which the persona comic, at least since Blockedis similar to that of an irascible and story-telling child-king who contaminates from within all the formats in which he appears (to the point of developing, like a metastasis, his own fiction – cf. Serge the mytho). It is telling that the last episodes of the Torch turn out to be by far the most successful, precisely when the scenario breaks free from the rails of parody. Thus the seventh episode where the actor doubles up to play Marco, a drug trafficker who takes the candidates hostage: this stranglehold imposes a renewed comic tempo, less hysterical but leaning more towards a bizarre absurdity (the candidates must manufacture five kilos of cocaine at from next to nothing) in which the actor excels. It is also at the end of the series that Cohen truly reveals the regressive and infantile nature of his character, whose elegant business suit gradually turns into bloomers of a toddler. From his appearances emerges a taste for nonsense causing a slight vertigo, as in episode 8, where we have to see the way in which a simple cutaway reveals a new character, Jean-Guy, known to everyone except Marc and the viewer. His sudden arrival opens a flaw in the scenario, never explained and whose absurdity is then not without evoking, in a minor key, the schoolboy surrealism of a Quentin Dupieux. This is perhaps the conclusion to be drawn from this half-hearted series: Jonathan Cohen never shines as much as when he imposes on the series a comic madness bordering on disturbing strangeness.

Review: The Torch: Raiders of Chupacabra – Critikat