It's Pierre Barbaud's score that first catches one's attention, flush with high and somewhat discordant strings that would be well suited for an arthouse horror flick. That semblance may not be so far off base, actually, as Janine Verneau's tight editing produces a unique flurry of imagery. Conjured by Agnès Varda's unique vision, that imagery includes scene writing, dialogue, and characters that ride a fine line between "a few centimeters removed from 'natural' and 'normal'" and "completely weird and outrageous," not to mention select visuals that may or may not be discretely tied to the narrative. Even more to the point, Varda's tale is most definitely crafted with an oblique, off-kilter flow and sensibility befitting the more far-flung and artful side of cinema. I don't think there's much arguing that this is a title for a more niche audience, but by the same token, it's expertly crafted across the board, and is solidly engaging even in its strangeness. 'Les créatures' certainly won't appeal to all, nor would I expect it to, but I had a great time watching and think this is well worth exploring.
The indistinct lines between fiction and reality in the picture are part and parcel of the visuals presented to us, nevermind the tenor that influences all else on hand. With the fantastical bent firmly established after a time, the delightfully vivid choices of filming locations, production design, art direction, costume design, hair, and makeup are made quite clear, and the supremely mindful, tasteful cinematography is all the more lovely for the fact of it. As if she hadn't done so elsewhere, Varda illustrates without question her expertise as a director; shots and scenes here may be on the more curious and offbeat side of things, but she orchestrates the tableau with a shrewd eye and dexterous hand to build the whimsy and the mystery. Even at that, maybe more than anything else what the unusual slant of 'Les créatures' provides is an opportunity for the cast to just have a total blast. Esteemed actors that Michel Piccoli was and Catherine Deneuve is, it feels a bit like this gives them a chance to show another side of themselves, and try something a little different. So it is too with co-stars like Eva Dahlbeck, Bernard La Jarrige, Jeanne Allard, and all others on hand.
By all means, it's a decidedly odd feature that Varda conjured, one that pointedly confuses the levels of "reality" here. I won't say that I understand everything she was doing with her screenplay, but as she had accordingly spoke of "inspiration" as the underlying impetus and motif, I can only reflect in turn that the movie is itself rather inspired. It's wonderfully imaginative in every capacity, the the story she put together is a minor joy. It sure seems like everyone involved was having fun, a feeling that's easily communicated and shared with viewers. I can understand how this won't necessarily appeal to wide general audiences, but I'm very pleased with how inventive 'Les créatures' is, how well it's made, and how enjoyable and satisfying. Unless one is a diehard fan of someone who participated it may not be an outright must-see, but for those who are receptive to all the wild possibilities of what the medium has to offer, as far as I'm concerned this is well worth checking out if one comes across it.