Review: A Lost Man

Because the film trades in vagueness, the actions of its characters can only be appraised in the most general of ways.

A Lost Man
Photo: MK2 Productions

According to A Lost Man’s international press notes, Danielle Arbid’s first feature-length production since In the Battlefields is “about getting lost.” Simple enough, except this near-premiseless work is as much about the rationale—or lack thereof—for the lost expression on its main character’s face as it is about how haughty films of this sort thrive on confounding audiences. Because the film trades in vagueness, the actions of its characters can only be appraised in the most general of ways: So, when Fouad (Alexander Siddig) naughtily makes out with a woman at the border between Syria and Jordan, one might say he is Reaching Out for a Connection, and when Thomas (Melvil Poupaud) snaps pictures of Fouad and the woman, one might interpret his actions as a need to challenge Representations of Sexual Behavior in Middle Eastern Society. Though he hires Fouad to be his translator, Thomas involves him in his desire to photograph himself having sex with random women, a fixation some might read as an expression of Narcissism and New Colonialism. He says he’s a journalist but he acts like a sex pervert, and though his fetish boils down to sexual terrorism, the fervor with which he delves into Faoud’s life is completely inexplicable: Faoud tried to kill his wife many years ago, when he fled Beirut in 1985, but the reasons for his violence and departure (like his connection to a group of teenagers he gawks at toward the end of the film) shall remain nameless. There’s a great Claire Denis film in here somewhere about the relations between races, and there are worse ways to spend an afternoon than seeing Poupaud pork a string of women, but the film isn’t nearly as willful or poetic in its abstraction, dangling enough stray bits of context over audiences’ heads to help us get by but still leaving both us and itself caught in a confused lull.

Score: 
 Cast: Melvil Poupaud, Alexander Siddig, Darina El Joundi, Darina Al Joundi, Yasmine Lafitte  Director: Danielle Arbid  Screenwriter: Danielle Arbid  Running Time: 93 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2007

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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