Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river...

Suzanne (2013) - Quillévéré
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Gritty and succinct in its presentation, the film paints about 20 some years of a woman and her immediate family and friends in a fleeting style. Suzanne (Sarah Forestier) is a daughter of a blue color 18 wheeler driver Nicolas (beautifully played by François Damiens) and an older sister of Maria (Adéle Haenel). You can only tell a passage of time by Nicolas's thinning hair on top. Main attraction here is of course, Forestier. As a young woman who makes some really bad choices early on, her Suzanne is an ordinary girl who has no luck in life.

With co-screenwriter Mariette Désert, Quillévéré moves the film briskly, jumping time forward in major way, leaving the audience to catch up both narratively and emotionally. We never get to see a botched home invasion/robbery that sends Suzanne to prison, we never get to see her young son growing up in foster care, we never get to see Maria's social life. We only get the glimpse of Suzanne's life every 5 or so years, not in a calculated, 'the super hit medley of my life' but more fleeting, observing someone's life with a sense of melancholy. This way, Quillévéré eliminates a sense of that false expectation/manipulation that comes with moviemaking. We see excellent actors portraying beautiful characters and we share their regrets, loves and their sadnesses together. Suzanne is a massively affecting film, much more so than any of Dardenne Bros. films.

Soft Touch

Love Like Poison (2016) - Quillévéré
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14 year old Anna (Clara Augarde) comes home from the boarding school for the Summer. With her parents being separated, she has to contend with being with her depressed mother and a bedridden grandpa. But she is generally a good girl. She hangs with a local choir boy Pierre. Her confirmation at the church is approaching but she is having doubts, struggling with her body changing and earthly desires. Quietly being repulsed by adults' behaviors, she and perhaps us audiences learn that the line between childhood and adulthood is pretty thin.

Quilévéré's strength is in her paying attention to every character in the film, from Anna to the conflicted local priest to Ana's deadbeat father to the dirty grandpa. Also I do like Quillévéré's gentle approach. Let's face it, coming of age story is a dime a dozen in French cinema. But she has perhaps the gentlest touch in all female directors of her generation (Mia Hansen-Løve, Rebecca Zlotowski and Alice Rohrwacher come to mind).