It’s not all too often that you can say that a film takes off when its lead character is ceremoniously drained of all her energy, defenses, and motivation. Interestingly, Mike Leigh recently did exactly this with his tour de force martyr drama Vera Drake, and he accomplished the feat with relative formal elegance and acute emotional observation, whereas French director Benoît Jacquot’s glammed-out New Wave-quoting chic instead opts for a far more extreme, and frustrating, tack. In the film, a young art student named Lili (Isild Le Bresco) casually meets Bada (Ouassini Embarek), an uber-sensitive, gauntly handsome Moroccan gangster (strictly Junior Division) and finds her loins tickled by either his tacit menace or, perhaps, the way his olive skin clings to his rippling abdominal shield of muscles. In either case, when a bank robbery attracts overwhelming attention from Paris’s police force and a hostage winds up shot, Lili impulsively goes on the lam to Spain—and eventually beyond—with her mystery lover and his volatile partner in crime (not to mention his bourgeoisie neophyte moll). Similar to how the central female of Jacquot’s breathless breakout 1995 film A Single Girl buried her disappointments and her indecisiveness beneath her hectic workday routine as a room service jockey in a busy Parisian hotel, the well-to-do daddy’s girl at the center of Tout de Suite retains an impressive poker face. As played by Le Besco, whose attractiveness naggingly reveals itself in anti-glamorous angles (oily toad eyes, scorpion-stung lip-pillows, uncombed cotton candy hair), Lili represents the very ideal portrait of the central character as cipher. For the first half of the film, the void is filled by the sexual carnality of Bada, but once he and his jerk partner ditch her at customs in Greece (leaving her middle-class ass with no money, no clothes, and no sweet Moroccan dick), the color seems to drain from both Lili as well as the film’s DV cinematography. She silently spends minutes on end with her back to the camera as various lowlifes offer her assistance. Whatever minute sense of momentum the film had been feigning to convey—more often than not via the suggestively sleazy, very Moroderesque musical leitmotif—stops cold. And every further incident in the plot seems detached from all others, so what might read as a downward spiral of destitution instead just comes off as a soul jogging in place in Purgatory; it’s a place, come to think of it, relatively few film characters ever spend extended amounts of time.
- Cinema Guild
- 95 min
- Benoît Jacquot
- Benoît Jacquot
- Isild Le Bresco, Ouassini Embarek, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Laurence Cordier, Forini Kodoukaki, Léonor Graser, Emmanuelle Bercot
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