All the Fine Promises (2003)

2 06 2008

This is the chronological and stylistic midpoint between Le doux amour des hommes and Á Travers la forêt but also the least defiant of the three Civeyrac films mentioned. While it does have some overwhelmingly fantastic moments (as all of Civeyrac’s films do) it does run the risk of being bland from time to time. With every film, it begins to look more and more like he is interested in the paranormal rather than the normal. There is still plenty of “fucked up relationship” stuff here but like his latest film, it also has a few rather laughable moments.

Following her mother’s death, Marianne discovers that her now presumably deceased father had a mistress. She becomes intrigued and goes out to look for the woman, leaving her lover, Etienne, all alone. Marianne discovers that the mistress is Beatrice, a pianist who lives in a secluded beach house. The two start a friendship, reminiscing about the man who made in an impact in both of their lives.

In all honesty, it is becoming semi-irritating having to cope with the inexplicable “ghost” scenes that Civeyrac seems to occasionally toss into all of his films. His characters’ inability to get over the death of loves one is beginning to wear a little thin. Still, I’d be lying if I said these characters weren’t intriguing as all hell. It’s questionable as to whether or not that is even Civeyrac’s intention. He may very well be going for some Alain Robbe-Grillet sort of story. It’s sort of hard to depicter such a thing underneath his unconventional (and fully realized) aesthetic.

Whether or not the above case is true, Jeanne Balibar is still pretty amazing and of course, this is indeed another case of cinematic perfection on Civeyrac’s part. Even if his interest will always lie in more spiritual matters, I can still appreciate his unrivaled ability to capture pure moments of intimacy. The bedroom scene between Marianne and Etienne is the purest example of what I look for in Civeyrac’s films as well as an explanation as to why I continue to watch his films. His interest obviously lies in other areas, but his talent is unavoidable.

Water Lilies (2007)

2 06 2008

Celine Sciamma builds a very promising foundation in this, her debut feature. Really, if there’s anything flawed about the film its that is perhaps fits in far too closely to “my” type of cinema almost to the point of self-parody. In other words, this is pretty much a perfectly executed textbook example of how to deal with alienation, adolescence, and all the other themes that those imply. Emotionally, it feels a bit too one-note, but that’s probably only because the teenage sexual discovery thing has already been done to death.

Marie is a reserved teenager whose only friendship comes from the much louder (and much more obnoxious) Anne, a synchronized swimmer. Marie attends one of Anne’s meets and spots Floriane, the team captain, and seems to fall in love with her. In the mean time, Francois accidentally walks in on a naked Anne, which somehow leads her to thinking they are in a relationship. In truth, Francois is involved with Floriane who can only attend “dates” if Marie accompanies her. Their friendship grows, in spite of the jealous tension and Floriane begins to reveal her secrets.

Even though it does so rather elegantly, this does pretty much follow all the borderline-cliché requirements for a film about growing up and the disenchantment that it brings. Of course, you have a very awkward and shy girl falling for the more popular and outgoing girl but there’s also plenty of party sequences and overwhelmingly awkward scenes of confrontation. Even though this (obviously) lacks the austerity, it does indeed create a sense of ennui and tension that reminds one of Tsai Ming-Liang. In fact, several shots seems to have been directly taken out of The Wayward Cloud, which of course is a plus in my book.

The story isn’t the most original one of all-time, but it does still ring pretty true, though perhaps only in a very one-dimensional sense. Not too long ago, I would have been blown away by this, but that “woe is me” love-story sensibility is a bit too superficial, especially when compared to my usual cinematic experiences. Still, it’s pretty much a perfectly-made film that does show something of a personality. Hopefully, Sciamma’s next narrative source will be a bit more emotionally substantial.