Cinema interested in the volatility of affections and the caroms of love is part of an international super league that no country is disgusted with. Although almost none have demonstrated the ability of French cinema to access unfathomable places when it comes to talking about those wounds that always hurt the same and in the same place. The new edition of D’A Film Festival, which will be held in Barcelona starting next Thursday —and a week later in Madrid, with a smaller programming—, focuses its attention on three films from the latest French cinema that lucidly examine the destructive potential of feelings. They are the most recent exponents of a culture very fond of paying homage to the amour fou, that Dionysian god before whom the best minds of the last century have already prostrated themselves: André Breton, Léo Ferré, Jacques Rivette, Françoise Hardy or Yves Saint Laurent are among those who took advantage of the blue residue – oh, that blue – left by the stories most heartbreaking.
Mouret signs a narrative film until exhaustion, governed by a script in the form of Russian dolls, where one story contains another and then another
The most interesting of the three is The things we say, the things we doby Emmanuel Mouret. The director, with 10 films behind him, had us used to light and language comedies, starring old children who spoke in simple passé, the verb tense that nobody uses in real life, because it is reserved for literary life. The most loaded and mannerist tics of his filmography continue to be in his new film, only this time they are accompanied by an ambition and a virtuosity that disarm. It stars a handful of characters tortured by their feelings, led by a young writer in crisis and his cousin’s girlfriend, a pregnant editor. Two strangers who meet in a house in southern France and confide in their sorrows, while a love affair is born between them, which shines behind the clouds despite being prohibited.
Mouret signs a narrative film until exhaustion, governed by a masterful script and in the form of Russian dolls, where one story contains another and then another. It works through a system of flashbacks, bifurcations and amendments to the previous story, which aspire to complete or correct it, enunciated by fickle characters harassed by their inner conflict, by the permanent temptation to be unfaithful, by the coexistence of parallel desires that paralyze them. This aspect brings Mouret closer to Rohmer’s moralism, one of his main references, although here he manages to transcend, perhaps for the first time, mimesis with respect to his models. Among them are the eighteenth-century sentimental drama, the fiery romanticism of Truffaut or the vaudeville of lovers hidden in the closet, which it admirably dignifies in the last section, presided over by a beautiful double ending, devastating despite its restraint.
For her part, Suzanne Lindon delves into similar pains in Seize printemps, which speaks of another type of impossible love: that of a languid adolescent and a handsome theater actor who takes two decades out of him, set in what could be an amoral eighties, where a privileged intellectual environment attends this outlawed romance with total indifference , a possible nod to the many similar cases that France has unearthed in recent years. Lindon, who wrote the story at 15 and directs and stars in it at 20, has the lanky elegance of a young Charlotte Gainsbourg, with whom she shares the status of daughter of: her parents are actors Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain.
The film is as fragile as its character, insecure in all the steps it takes, although many times they go in the right direction. Lindon avoids going into gardens and dodges the social debate about consent. Seize printemps neither judges nor prosecutes: he limits himself to observing from a place that, despite everything, continues to be uncomfortable and alternates the pink color of the grenadines that his protagonist drinks, leitmotiv chromatic of the film, with the deaf violence conveyed by the closed gaze of Arnaud Valois, revealed in 120 beats per minute, whose self-absorbed character seems unavailable even to himself.
Danielle Arbid, Lebanese director based in France, has fallen the Herculean task of adapting Simple passion, the 1992 book in which Annie Ernaux recounted her affair with a married man. The initiative seemed doomed to failure due to the difficulty of translating Ernaux’s literature into images, located in the gap between the self, the you and the us, without the result being atonic. Arbid plays partially with a transposition to an aesthetic universe that is somewhat cheap, devoid of the rough folds of the writing that inspires it, without the tear that the author’s clinical tone always gives off. Deprived of her powerful weapons, the filmmaker is limited to directing a transcript of an erotic thriller from the 90s that revolves around the tattooed body of a Russian lover with blue eyes played by Sergei Polunin, the bad boy Ukrainian ballet, in the antipodes of the description, less sexy but much more interesting, given by Ernaux in his day, when he defined his lover as “Boris Yeltsin 20 years younger.”
In spite of everything, there are elements of interest in this study on sex-affective desire and dependence. The protagonist, a Laetitia Dosch who masterfully walks the tightrope between reasoning and alienation, is unable to live this torrid adventure without elaborating romantic projections, without ending up seeing in her lover a possible partner and not an animal in heat. . The most stimulating part is the story of the withdrawal syndrome of this addict, who comes to travel to Moscow to breathe for a few hours the same air as her beloved or to search the streets on Google Maps hoping that some blurred face corresponds to hers. To put aside his work and his doctoral thesis and run over, in a careless moment, his own son. Arbid, as Ernaux did before, recalls that gender inequality also reigns in the realms of passion, fueled by cultural constructs such as those rose novels that the protagonist leafs through, fascinated and disgusted, in the hypermarket. After all, the book opened with a quote from Barthes, who maintained that Nous Deux, the successful magazine that popularized photonovels in France, was “more obscene than Sade.”
D’A Film Festival. In Barcelona, from April 29 to May 9. In Madrid, from May 7 to 13.