Cinefranco Film Festival 2005 - UPDATE #1
L'autre (The Missing Half)
Directed by Benoit Mariage
L'autre is a thoroughly bizarre little movie revolving around married couple Claire (Dominique Baeyens) and Pierre (Philippe Grand'Henry), who have just learned that Claire is pregnant with twins. Pierre seems happy about the news, but Claire is despondent and eventually makes the decision to have one of the babies terminated in utero (leading to a disturbing sequence in which we actually see this happen, via ultrasound). Meanwhile, Pierre has befriended a mentally challenged young man named Laurent (played by Laurent Kuenhen), a relationship that initially bothers Claire. Director Benoit Mariage (who co-wrote the film with Joachim Lafosse) imbues L'autre with a patient, almost glacial pace that somehow works; there's something oddly compelling about all of this, particularly in the sense that it's virtually impossible to predict what's going to happen next (ie Pierre's extreme reaction to a cruel prank at a dinner party). But Mariage never allows us to understand what makes these people tick, making it impossible to comprehend some of their decisions (why, for example, is Claire so insistent on losing one of the twins?) Far more exasperating is the film's third-act left turn, as Claire volunteers to help construct a nativity scene at Laurent's special school (huh?) Yet it's hard to ignore Mariage's distinct, strangely captivating sense of style - though it's hard not to wish the filmmaker had taken a more linear route in developing these characters.
Dans les champs de bataille (In the Battlefields)
Directed by Danielle Arbid
Dans les champs de bataille is an excruciatingly misguided coming-of-age story involving a young girl named Lina (Marianne Feghali) and the manner in which she deals with a variety of disruptive forces (ie a nearby war, an abusive father, etc) over the space of a couple of months. Writer/director Danielle Arbid effectively captures the mood of this place, though she squanders that (the film's sole positive aspect) by neglecting to mention just where the movie occurs. It's clear that there's some kind of a war occurring in this unnamed Middle Eastern country, but Arbid takes the audience's knowledge for granted - refusing to offer up even a simple scroll at the film's outset. This is exacerbated by the film's complete and utter lack of a storyline, as Arbid seems to think that Lina's plight is compelling enough to keep the viewer interested. But because Lina is surrounded by adults that are either abusive or negligent, the film quickly becomes oppressive - something that's cemented by the distinct vibe of unpleasantness hard-wired into the film by Arbid. Worse yet, the film is peppered with interminable sequences - particularly a wake that just seems to go on and on - that are pointless and exasperating, ensuring that Dans les champs de bataille will only appeal to the most masochistic of viewers.