“Babies suck at your thoughts like giant mosquitoes,” says Lionel Baier the character in Lionel Baier the writer-director’s Stealth. And pretentious, self-indulgent films like this suck the life out of international art-house cinema. For his follow-up to Garçon Stupide, the Swiss filmmaker delivers what his narrative’s alter ego calls “auto-fiction,” a blending of the genuine and made-up that, in this case, finds Baier recreating and embellishing personal memories in some sort of vanity project run amok. His sophomore film’s plot involves a journey of self-discovery embarked upon by Lionel, a gay, Swiss radio host with a loving boyfriend and supportive parents, and Lionel’s sister Lucie (Natacha Koutchournov), a pregnant malcontent, after the duo learns that their great grandfather may have been Polish. This potential revelation begets identity confusion for Lionel, who begins speaking Polish, cheering for Polish soccer teams, and trying out heterosexuality with an illegal Polish immigrant named Ewa (Alicja Bachleda-Curus). These attempts at cultural reclassification prove unsuccessful, so he and Lucie, both eager to flee their less-than-content lives, impulsively take off on a cross-continent road trip to Warsaw, thereby giving the smug Baier an opportunity to live out his American frontier fantasies—stoked by a gold-prospecting novel he’s reading. Unformed characters on an unfocused expedition, the duo experience a series of misadventures that are neither funny nor profound, but are annoyingly punctuated with explications-of-theme such as Lucie describing her younger sibling as someone who’s “always preferred fiction to real life.” Baier takes every available occasion to cinematographically masturbate over himself in close-up, all in service of a story that touts the primary role of the individual—rather than that of ancestors, parents, lovers, or friends—in shaping one’s identity. It’s certainly a lesson Lionel takes to heart, though in the spirit of his film’s title, one wishes Baier would, from here on out, continue his narcissistic process of personal and cinematic self-definition covertly.
- 112 min
- Lionel Baier
- Lionel Baier, Marina de Van
- Lionel Baier, Natacha Koutchoumov, Alicja Bachleda-Curus, Stéphane Rentznik, Michal Rudnicki, Bernabé Rico, Lech Dyblik, Barbara Dembinska
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