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Brief Crossing (Breve Traversee)
Brief Crossing
Breve Traversee
Actors: Sarah Pratt, Gilles Guillain, Marc Filipi, Laëtitia Lopez, Marc Jablonski
Director: Catherine Breillat
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
NR     2004     1hr 20min

What starts as a chance meeting between a 30-something English woman Alice (Sarah Pratt) and a 16 year-old French boy (Gilles Guillan) quickly develops into much more on an overnight ferry ride. As the conversation progre...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Sarah Pratt, Gilles Guillain, Marc Filipi, Laëtitia Lopez, Marc Jablonski
Director: Catherine Breillat
Creators: Eric Gautier, Catherine Breillat, Pascale Chavance, Christophe Valette, Jean-Pierre Guérin, Pierre Eid
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Romantic Comedies, Love & Romance
Studio: Fox Lorber
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 05/18/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 20min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 11
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Mesmerizing
James D. Leverton | San Marcos, CA USA | 10/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Controversial French director Catherine Breillat's "Brief Crossing" (2001) is a mesmerizing 80-minute knockout that follows two very different travelers as they meet on an overnight ferry cruise and enter into a steamy one-night affair. The twist here is that the odd couple is a thirtysomething Englishwoman and a 16-year-old French schoolboy.

Breillat was obviously inspired by David Lean's classic "Brief Encounter." However, the similarities end there. As anyone who has seen any of Breillat's previous features (including the [hot] "Romance" and "Fat Girl") will know, the director isn't interested in telling a conventional love story so much as chronicling the psychological fallout of sex. This film is no exception. As Breillat herself says in a revealing interview that accompanies the film, she made the film simply because she wanted to explore the loss of a young male's virginity. In this case, it is young Thomas (Gilles Guillan), who meets Alice (Sarah Pratt) while ordering dinner, then begins a mutual flirtation with the amused woman after she invites him to share a table with her. Over the course of the next hour, they share much revealing conversation, then eventually fall into bed together. What happens next is best left for the viewer to experience.

Obviously the centerpiece of this film is the sexual encounter, and let's just say it is beautifully handled by the director and her two actors. Perhaps because of the tender age of her young star, Breillat doesn't push the envelope as far as she did in "Romance," leaving it up to the viewer to decide just how real the encounter is. (Rest assured, young Guillan was 19 when he made the film, but still a virgin according to the director.) Still, it's an eye-opening moment. So, if you're one that is easily offended by on-screen sexuality, pass this one up.

The acting by Pratt and Guillan is perfect. The dinner scene in particular is brilliantly handled. It's fascinating to watch the older woman trying to act younger while the young boy puffs on a cigarette and vainly tries to impress the older woman by acting much older than he is. And the last fifteen minutes especially ring true, with a last-minute twist that ends the film on exactly the right note.

In all, "Brief Crossing" is a minor film which sacrifices plot to tell a simple story of two disparate souls who make a once-in-a-lifetime connection. The ending is sad but honest, and leaves the viewer to make his own judgments about the woman's behavior. (It helps to take into account the differing attitudes about sex that separates us American puritans with European sensibilities: an American film would end with the woman thrown in jail for statutory rape.) At least the film is honest about it's intentions to provide an erotic experience for the audience, unlike today's American coming-of-age films which disguise their intentions in dumb comedy and irresponsible filmmaking. (By irresponsible filmmaking, I mean that an American film would romanticize the encounter and make it appear to be a beautiful rite-of-passage for the boy and satisfying for the woman. In Breillat's world, the sex is raw, clumsy, unmutually satisfying, almost violent and even somewhat sad to watch. Quite a difference.)

In all, "Brief Crossing" is a small gem from a controversial director who delights in polarizing her audiences. The viewer's enjoyment will hinge on just how hung-up he/she is about in-your-face eroticism. Enter at your own risk. **** (out of *****)"
Must-see French cinema: Breillat's erotic 'Brève Traversée.'
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 09/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

""All true artists are hated. Only conformists are ever adored."--Catherine Breillat.

Catherine Breillat (1948) is a Paris-based filmmaker and writer who is best known for her explicit depictions of sexuality in mainstream films. In a reversal of conventional sexual roles, Brief Encounter (Brève Traversée) (2001) tells the coming-of-age story of a 16-year-old French boy, Thomas (Gilles Guillan), who is deceptively seduced by a 30-something English woman, Alice (Sarah Pratt), on an overnight ferry ride. The two meet while ordering dinner, and then engage in eye contact and intimate conversation as a form of foreplay before eventually falling into Alice's twin bed together. The resulting sexual scene is highly erotic even by French standards. Their brief fling occurs at sea, symbolically "beyond the law" of conventional social mores, and is meant to depict a once-in-a-lifetime connection (somewhat reminiscent of the film, Before Sunrise). The film's final scene involves an unexpected twist that is more revealing than the sexual act itself. Although some viewers might be offended by the frank sexuality and statutory rape issue, Brief Crossing is my favorite Breillat film and is highly recommended.

G. Merritt"
Brilliant Superb
Christopher Ammons | Pittsburgh | 04/29/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What makes this more than "Very good" is the attention to psychological precision that a lesser film would have left out. Mangled passport, not applauding, and dozens of other such that shows the director understands her characters inside and out to the point that they are indistinguishable from actual people she knows. And on top of that the film generates enough thought and ideas about love and age differences to last months."
Engaging Breillat film but not for everybody
Ben Shepherd | Philadelphia, PA USA | 03/03/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"An engaging character study about a thirty-something English-woman who meets a hot-headed French teenager on a London-bound ship. Over the course of one night, they meet cute, philosophize, fight, and eventually hook up.

Stylistically, this is far different from anything Breillat has done before or since.

In previous films, Breillat was notorious for exploring the sickening depths of human depravity via sexuality ("A Real Young Girl", "Romance" "36 Fillette") and violence ("Perfect Love", "Fat Girl"), and unafraid to show her characters fully nude and to film them in unsimulated sex scenes.

But here, Breillat's perfectly content to let her fully-clothed characters light up a smoke in the ship's dining hall and just chat. On the surface, this may sound like a retread of "Perfect Love", since Breillat had seemingly already explored the older woman/younger man territory.

But whereas Christophe in "Perfect Love" was a petualant brat (and more than likely a closet homosexual), Thomas here is a full-blooded teenager: precocious and intelligent, but also hopelessly naive.

If you're with the characters, you'll follow them all the way to the ship's dock. If you're bored to tears by their chats and with following them around the ship, then this film is not for you.

As usual, Breillat favors character over plot, and unlike most French filmmakers, she has no use for her New Wave predecessors' jazzy pacing and quick jump-cuts. She prefers a stationary camera (that cross-cuts between characters and precious little else) in order to let the scenes breathe and the performances build. Critics have thus complained about Breillat's leisurely pacing making her films artsy at best and downright boring at worst.

Which is a shame, since "Brief Crossing", pacing issues aside, is probably Breillat's most accessible work. There's sex, to be sure, but it's nowhere near as explicity depicted as in Breillat's previous "Romance" (and several years after this film with "Anatomy of Hell").

Bottom line: If you don't mind a grounded character study that centers on a love interest between a woman at the crossroads of her life and a boy whose ship is just beginning to sail, then by all means check it out. And if you're interested in Breillat, this is probably the perfect starting point, as you can then build up to the director's gritter, take-no-prisoners work.

But if you've never seen a European film and aren't used to the style, you'd best look elsewhere. There's no shoot-outs or flashy camera work. No CGI or MTV-casting. Just one night in the life of two regular people.

It's not Breillat's best film, but still a worthy addition to her scattered ouevre, and a nice left turn from her more uncompromising and polarizing works.

SIDE NOTE: The DVD also features a long interview with Breillat as she talks about the making of the film.

It's a fascinating interview to be sure, however it's marred by a language barrier.

The DVD producers chose to conduct an interview in English with Breillat.
Breillat speaks English fluently, but her French accent is so haltingly thick that her answers are often difficult to understand. As a result, the English language interview is sub-titled.

Anyone who's ever seen Breillat give an interview in her native tongue knows that the woman is a handful: Out-spoken and uncompromising. The DVD producers could've easily brought in a French interviewer for Breillat, or at least an off-screen translator so Breillat could answer the English questions in her own language.

Since we all just sat through a 90-minute French film sub-titled in English, do they really think we would've griped about a Special Feature having the same? Especially since they went and sub-titled the interview anyway...."