I was eager to see “Lola Upside Down.” After all, The New York Times had named it a “Show to Watch” this fall, even citing comparisons to one of my favorite all-time series, “Twin Peaks.” “Lola’s” Finnish origins only heightened its mystique.
So I started watching the six-part mini-series from 2016, which debuts in the U.S. this Tuesday, December 4, over SVOD service MHz Choice.
I saw uniformed, baton-twirling teens parading down the streets of a small seaside town. I found none of the characters particularly likable. I was introduced to a decidedly dysfunctional family. I watched as horrific deaths took place.
I found "Lola Upside Down" dreary, and stopped watching after the second episode.
Depressed, confused, and on the verge of starting to rewatch the first episodes of the original "Twin Peaks" to see if perhaps they too had lost their charm, I read a European article comparing "Lola Upside Down" favorably with "Li'l Quinquin," a four-part French mini-series from 2014.
Might as well inflict that one on myself as well, I thought. I found "L'il Quinquin" streaming on Kanopy, a gem of a service available free to library card holders across the U.S. (The series is also available to Fandor subscribers)
I found "L'il Quinquin" a delight and couldn’t stop watching.
What was the difference between "L'il Quinquin" and "Lola Upside Down"?
"L'il Quinquin" was filmed in brighter tones, had a more direct crime drama storyline — and perhaps most important, was played largely for laughs.
In the series, a boy and a detective set out separately to determine who or what is behind a series of bizarre murders.
Three of the main characters are as unattractive as you’ll ever see top-lining a major production. The boy ("Quinquin" of the title) has a squashed-in type of face. The detective has unruly hair and facial tics manifested by constant eye blinking. His assistant is missing some of his front teeth.
However, the boy, in what at first seems a nod toward non-discriminatory inclusiveness, has a pretty girlfriend who doesn’t care one whit about his looks. But we soon learn that he is massively bigoted toward blacks, Arabs and Muslims. He is also prone to mischief, sort of a Dennis the Menace on steroids.
The detective — a combination of Monk, Columbo and Kojak, although far less competent — is no bastion of tolerance himself. At best, he reluctantly accepts kids and minorities. He also has a catchphrase, exciting himself every time he tells his assistant, “Let’s roll” as they move on to another locale.
Credit creator/director Bruno Dumont for making all this compelling rather than dismal. Like “Twin Peaks”’ David Lynch, Dumont was already a big-time movie director before tackling TV, and "L'il Quinquin" was released as a very long feature film after its TV premiere. That’s the version you’ll see on Kanopy and Fandor, but the episodes are clearly delineated and marked every 50 minutes or so, and I’d suggest stopping at those points for a while to savor what has been going on.
Like me, you’ll likely be trying to understand why, as weird and unlikeable as most of the characters are, you’re drawn to them. And you’ll hope that the seemingly normal characters — the girlfriend and her older sister — will somehow make things right by the end.
But don’t forget that "L'il Quinquin" is of the "Twin Peaks" school. So, it it may likely need a sequel.
You won't need to wait 25 years, though. The "Quinquin" sequel, a four-part sci-fi/comedy mini-series titled "Coin-Coin and the Extra-Humans," premiered in France a couple of months ago. The four main stars of "L'il Quinquin," who have never appeared in any other films or TV shows, are all back. The detective and the boy, who’s now grown up and named "Coin-Coin," attend meetings of France’s Nationalist party. The girlfriend is now a lesbian. And weird things are happening.
Come on, Kanopy and Fandor. Bring "Coin-Coin" to the U.S. ASAP!