Lisa Simpson once described Nelson Muntz as a “riddle wrapped in an enigma,” a diagnosis that could apply to the protagonist of Eléonore Faucher’s first film Sequins. Beginning with a shot of 17-year-old Claire (Lola Newmark) picking cabbages so she can exchange them for rabbit hides (which she incorporates into her elaborate embroidery), the film never starves for mystery. For this delicate creature with long, curly red locks, human contact is prickly: Several months pregnant, she hides from the world in a studio apartment in Angouleme, leaving her job at a supermarket after telling her co-workers she has cancer (she blames cortisone for her weight gain) and going to work with a woman, Madame Melikian (Ariane Ascardie), who designs embroideries for the likes of Lacroix and whose son recently died in a motorcycle accident. From the paternity of Claire’s father to the extent of the relationship between characters, everything in the film is shrouded in secrecy, but Sequins doesn’t exactly feel like it’s trying to hide anything from its audience—if everyone’s past scarcely registers, it’s because Faucher’s characters seem selfishly stuck in the present. The film casts a mesmerizing spell, and true to its metaphysical fixation with the art of embroidery, characters often feel like strands undone from an uncompromising human tapestry. In turn, watching Claire interact with the suicidal Madame Melikian and Guillaume (Thomas Laroppe), a friend of Claire’s who’s haunted by the death of Melikian’s son Ichkhan, is like watching people mend rips in the fabric of their lives. In spite of this allegorical undertaking (I promise: no more sewing allusions for the rest of this review), the film never feels overly precious or pretentious, like David Gordon Green’s Undertow or Siegrid Alnoy’s She’s One of Us. Faucher’s imagery is sensual and unobtrusive, as is her frugal dialogue, which is careful not to talk down to its audience, even when characters seem to unnecessarily bring the film’s metaphorical underpinnings to the fore. “It’s a female; she’s full of eggs,” Guillaume tells a preggers Claire, explaining why he throws a fish back into the water. The moment is obnoxious for sure, but while the analysis seems in part intended for the audience’s sake, Faucher has the good sense to have Claire feel as if she’s been belittled as well; in the end, it lessens the preachiness of the gesture and makes the character, like the writing, seem all the more complex.
The image is clean but grainy and the color palette is somewhat desiccated-the image on the back of the DVD is more vibrant than any given shot I caught a glimpse of. Dialogue is clear but the surround work and score by Michael Galasso are a little flat.
Actress Ariane Ascaride reads excerpts from the script at an unspecified location and Lola Naymark appears in a montage of deleted scenes that also combines casting-couch footage. Rounding out the extras is a theatrical trailer.
Not a keeper, but if you're at a video store sometime soon make sure to look for my raging-queen pull-quote on the back.