Cinefranco Film Festival 2005 - UPDATE #4
Clara et moi (Clara and I)
Directed by Arnaud Viard
As a simple, straight-forward romance, Clara et moi undoubtedly succeeds. The film opens with an exceedingly charming "meet-cute" between the two leads, flighty Clara (Julie Gayet) and struggling actor Antoine (Julien Boisselier). The two embark on a relationship that is, initially, ridiculously perfect, which culminates with an odd musical sequence in which the pair profess their loving feelings for one another. Problems emerge when Clara reveals that she is HIV positive, a piece of news that drives Antoine away (for a while, anyway). Right off the bat, it's clear that it's the chemistry between Gayet and Boisselier that's the most effective aspect of Clara et moi. The two have genuine chemistry together (which is evident right from their chance meeting aboard a bus), elevating their admittedly plotless escapades into something that's surprisingly watchable. The only downside to this is that their inevitable break-up brings down the film's tone considerably, particularly given the fairly silly circumstances surrounding their split. Still, Gayet and Boisselier are effective enough to ensure that the movie is essentially entertaining throughout - though the ambiguous conclusion is disappointing and extremely unsatisfying.
Vipère au poing (Viper in the Fist)
Directed by Philippe de Broca
Director Philippe de Broca reportedly intended for Vipère au poing to be the first part of a trilogy, though that'll never happen now (the filmmaker died late last year). It's a shame, really, given that the movie feels more like 100 minutes of set-up than anything else. The story revolves around two brothers in the '20s, whose comfortable lives are obliterated by the arrival of their strict, hateful mother (played by Catherine Frot). And that's essentially the first hour of Vipère au poing; there's no storyline here, just sequence after sequence of the boys being terrorized (resulting in an intriguing subplot revolving around the youngest son's efforts to knock off not-so-dear old mom). The film does improve slightly as it progresses, particularly following the departure of Frot's character. But in the end, despite some fine acting and an ambiance that feels authentic, the film just isn't engaging - though it seems clear that future installments would've likely improved this one in retrospect (ie once the entire story had been told).