Universal Language (2024) Directors’ Fortnight 2024

May 18th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Matthew Rankin | Canada, Comedy Drama 89′

Fans of quirky humour will warm to this interconnected selection of parables from the Matthew Rankin whose breakout comedy hit The 20th Century swept the festival board back in 2019.

Rankin is a one-man potted Canadian version of Monty Python, and here along with his co-writers Ila Firouzabadi and Pirouz Nemati, dreams up a series of witty off-the-wall tales set, of all places, in Winnipeg and featuring a (predominantly) Farsi-speaking cast.

Universal Language is certainly an acquired taste: the humour is eye-pokingly prurient, politically incorrect and bizarre. The sets are provocative and the stories surreal, but will certainly have you pinned to your seat staring at the screen aghast – ┬áin anger, bewilderment or amazement at the weirdness of it all. In contrast to the content, visually it looks all quite bland and washed out colour-wise but that just adds to almost whimsical nature of the perfectly framed set pieces: the turkey shop is a case in point, as is the school scene that opens in a snowy urban landscape; clearly Winnipeg has some great architects, and you get a tour of the city by a character called Massoud who certainly adds value to his travelogue of the town. The man and his mother tale is another well-worn chestnut but the Quebec setting is novel.

Whatever you make of it Universal Language is a bracingly inspired piece of filmmaking from a director who thinks out of the box and deserves a place in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight selection at Cannes Film Festival 2024.@MeredithTaylor


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