Friday, February 14, 2014

Chourmo (Jean-Claude Izzo, 1996)

Let's simply call Chourmo Total Chaos part 2 as it just carries on from where the first one of the Marseilles trilogy has ended. Okay, it is one year later and Fabio is not a cop anymore but everything else has pretty much remained the same. Including - unfortunately - crazy storytelling and incomprehensible plotting. And this time around it just wasn't much fun to read it.

Two stories: Fabio's cousin's teenage kid gets killed and as soon as our ex-cop starts his investigation, his old friend Serge is gunned down right in front of his eyes. Pretty soon mafia gets involved and this time also some Arab militants. I'm still not sure how these two sub-plots are related, but revelation of the first case is so ridiculous that it gives words "coincidence" and "twist" the whole new meanings.

But anyways, Fabio is (a) so full of hatred that he doesn't go to the police because he wants to kill monsters responsible himself and (b) so full of other strong emotions that he feels the need to explain his view of life, philosophy, leftist politics, arts etc. Again and again. Together of course with the complete history of Marseilles, countless food recipes and wine recommendations. And again and again. Plus recapitulation of his lost friendships and love affairs.

It's fucking relentless, this shit never stops. All this mess and lack of direction is quite illustrative in the final "action" scene where Fabio deals with the two assholes who had killed the poor little kid. Instead of (for an example) shooting them from some kind of ambush, he lures them into a car chase. Huh? They are hard-core mafia hit men, but still "My whole plan depended on their making a mistake. A mistake I hoped would be fatal." So now they are driving in the middle of the night like crazy on the narrow hill roads and those two assholes are shooting at our hero and guess with what kind of shit he occupies his thoughts? Well, it's food of course! Obviously the first thing that pops into one's mind when being chased by the mafia killers is poutargue or spaghetti matriciana with red Tempier from Bandol. Or bean soup together with toast drizzled with olive oil. Or maybe stew with marinated meat... And if all this crap wasn't bad enough, let me just finish this by pointing out that he listens to ZZ Top during this ordeal (The only rock band I liked. I needed them.) ZZ fucking Top!?!? Fabio, a couple of hints: in 1996 Sepultura's Roots and Pantera's Great Southern Trendkill came out!

I understand of course that it is character driven with Marseilles once again being a character of its own but it just didn't work for me. Maybe because, after reading the first book, it wasn't so fresh and exciting anymore or maybe because our main man was still pretty dull and a bit of a sissy (btw closing lines are: "That's when I started to cry. God, it felt good.") But mostly I resented total neglect of any creditable storytelling. There are just so many distractions that it seems everything else was more important to the author than to maintain story at least remotely plausible. Still good in its way and (and for the most part) interesting writing but Mr. Izzo had chosen the wrong genre for this one I think. Some heavy shit existential drama would be more appropriate...



Fabio Montale, ex-cop


Body count: 8

His cousin Claudia Cardinale look-alike Gelou (Mature woman, in full blown. The way I like them.) and beautiful and a bit mysterious Vietnamese femme fatale Cuc.

After the car chase he's so exhausted that he passes out. Although not before having a chat with the cops and smoking two cigarettes.

Chourmo, a Provencal word derived from chiourme, the rowers in a galley....The fan club of Massilia Sound System, the craziest bunch of kids around, had taken over the expression... not so much a fan club as a friendship club... So - in short - is a about belonging to and supporting your local community.

Picture of a bay in (I guess) Marseilles. Credited to Emanuele Ragnisco.

Cool lines:  
He was sweating profusely. He stank of death. Shit and death. The two things his life had consisted of. [The Coolest!]

No comments:

Post a Comment