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Water Lilies
Water Lilies
Actors: Pauline Acquart, Louise Blachre, Adele Haenel, Warren Jacquin, Christel Baras
Director: Cline Sciamma
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2008     1hr 25min

During a summer in Paris, a love triangle develops between three girls in this provocative and perceptive portrait of teen angst and nascent sexuality. The awkward Anne, the bad girl Floriane and the gawky Marie play an in...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Pauline Acquart, Louise Blachre, Adele Haenel, Warren Jacquin, Christel Baras
Director: Cline Sciamma
Creator: Cline Sciamma
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/02/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2007
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2007
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 25min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 12
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: French
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Depths for the deep
Ehkzu | Palo Alto, CA United States | 12/31/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"A film review should help you decide whether or not to see the film. It shouldn't be some reviewer's soapbox. Rather, it's like a matchmaking service, looking not for the reviewer's ideal spouse, but the one for you.

That's what I'll try to do here.

First some filters: this is an organically-paced film in French, with subtitles, shot on a low budget. So if you demand that everything you see look like a glossy Hollywood spectacular, skip "Water Lilies." Even the landscapes aren't gorgeous. This is the Paris of sprawling anonymous suburbs. I'm not sure the characters have even seen the Eiffel Tower... except on TV.

And skip it if you're looking for French porn shot from a middle-aged male point of view (Louis Malle comes to mind). There's nudity here but it's painful, not titillating. There's powerful romantic passion but not the kind of elaborately choreographed love scenes that pass for "sexy" in Hollywood.

Also skip it if you're looking for a lesbian film. It's not about the lesbian community. It's not about a teen discovering she's lesbian and dealing with family and friends who are horrified, yada yada. None of that. There is at least one lesbian in the film, but that doesn't make it a lesbian film, any more than the presence of a black guy in a leading role in "The Matrix" made it a "black film." Lesbianism isn't the subject of "Wild Lilies."

Moreover, skip it if you don't want to see how three fifteen-year old girls see the world. This is what led to one singularly dense reviewer calling this a man-hating film. Well, duh. Imagine what boys are like from a fifteen year old girl's perspective. Girls mature emotionally before boys do, by and large. Boys don't catch up until they're in their 20s (if ever, some might add). The boys' preoccupation with getting laid, coupled with their emotional tone-deafness, makes them seem just like they're presented in this movie. If you're a man reading this, think back. You were like that then, weren't you? Be honest. Aren't you embarrassed by how you behaved during your first years of dating? I know I am.

Lastly, skip it if you want to cling to the belief that teenagers live strictly within the boundaries of a Disney teen comedy like, say, "Freaky Friday." I don't want to give away the plot, so I won't get into specifics like some other reviewers do, but some of the stuff these teens do will make you sit back and go "Whoa..."

But in retrospect it all makes sense--especially since these three teens are all outsiders: the girl boys lust after but who girls hate/despise; the overweight girl desperate for love; and the central figure, a skinny girl (think Scarlett Johansson without the curves) with the passionate depth of Juliet without any of Juliet's Shakespearian articulacy--and whose Romeo is ambivalent about her.

Hollywood screenwriters love the sound of their own words (with some exceptions, like Clint Eastwood), and their screen teens jabber incessantly, usually with the language and obsessions of a middle-aged male screenwriter ("Dawson's Creek"). But "Water Lilies"' teens talk in monosyllables, like many teens do.

And Hollywood teen actors grin and grimace and in general emote the paint off the walls. "Wild Lilies"'s teens look at the world through hooded eyes, with guarded expressions, never revealing more of what's going on inside than they have to.

This looks like non-acting to those accustomed to seeing people sawing the air with their hands and chewing the scenery. To watch this movie you have to recalibrate your head so you can watch people acting like people really act.

Do that, though, and you'll be rewarded richly. Pauline Acquart, who plays the movie's central figure Marie, is in nearly every scene; the movie rests on her narrow shoulders. As I said, she gives away nothing she doesn't have to. Yet hers is one of the most compelling portrayals I've seen of love so powerful it's nearly self-annihilating. But even then she never blurts out one of those totally phony self-revealing-speeches Hollywood uses to explain a character's motivations.

You have to watch Acquart as closely as she watches everyone around her to pry loose her secrets. And even though her love is probably hopeless, and even though it consumes her, she maintains an admirable, stoic dignity. Her courage is equally formidable. She's not one of those outgoing characters who naturally dominates a room. Nor is she a stalker, because stalkers believe their stalkee feels the same way about them and act accordingly. Marie has no such illusions.

Yet even though she has neither charisma, connections, nor the pseudo-courage of a nutcase, nor great beauty, she builds a connection with the one she wants, sometimes cautiously, sometimes boldly, as the occasion demands. She's an audacious general commanding a ragtag force in a war for someone's heart, and it's both fascinating and touching to watch her campaign evolve.

There's a scene in "Jerry Maguire" in which Renee Zelwegger's character dumps Tom Cruise's character, even though she loves him completely, because she can tell he doesn't love her as intensely as she loves him. Acquart's character, albeit less articulately, shows she's capable of the same kind of decision--even though she also shows that she will do almost anything for her Romeo (who's a female, as it happens, but this Romeo being female is absolutely not the point).

One other thing: this film shows us a few weeks in the lives of these three fifteen year olds. When the film ends, we don't know what "happens" later. That is, nothing is wrapped up with a ribbon tied around it. Nor should you expect the film to do so. These are 15 year olds, for heaven's sake.

Some Greek poet said "Call no man happy until his life is over." Likewise with these girls.

That said, I hope the director makes a sequel, with these same three actors. They've earned it. And they've earned your viewership--if you're worthy of this film."
Water Lilies: French Girls Blooming with Desire.
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 11/18/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"It is no coincidence that 27-year-old Céline Sciamma's 2007 film debut, Water Lilies (Naissance des Pieuvres, which translates as Birth of Octopuses), takes its English name from Claude Monet's series of famous oil paintings. Water Lilies tells the story of three beautiful French girls blooming together in water. The subtle French film premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, where it was a contender for the Caméra d'Or, and it received three nominations for the 2008 César Awards. Set primarly in a swimming pool locker room in Paris, the Belgian drama is a coming-of-age story culminating in the sexual awakenings of three 15-year-old female friends over the course of a languorous summer. Marie (Pauline Acquart), Anne (Louise Blachère) and Floriane (Adele Haenel) unexpectedly discover love, friendship, manipulation, betrayal, and sexuality while competing together in synchronized swimming. Acquart has the classic beauty of a young Scarlett Johansson. While Céline Sciamma shows real promise as a filmmaker, her first film--despite all of its revelations-- ultimately lacks the sexual depths of a Catherine Breillat film. Recommended.

G. Merritt"
Take a gentle swim among the water lilies
Joseph P. Menta, Jr. | Philadelphia, PA USA | 08/12/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Marie (Pauline Acquart) is petite, girlish, and shy, but likely on the verge of being a great beauty; her friend Anne (Louise Blachere) is awkward and somewhat overweight, and dealing with the pain those attributes engender from her peers; and Floriane (Adele Haenel) is already a great beauty, but doesn't know how to deal with all the attention she gets from the boys. "Water Lilies" is the story of their interactions, their experiences, and their growth (both emotionally and physically) during a school year in France.

The movie is understated, poetic, and sensual, though it would be a mistake to call it an erotic film. Rather it includes occasional erotic moments (discreetly filmed for the most part) in a story that's mostly about teenage angst. I also wouldn't characterize the movie as a "lesbian film", despite the same-sex crushes on display, especially among Marie and Floriane. The few romantic/sensual scenes between the girls were, to me, simply examples of the kind of deep affection and strong feelings that aren't uncommon among young teen girls. I could definitely see all of these girls, despite the intensity of their feelings for each other, eventually moving onto boyfriends when they're a little older, once their jumbled, still new, puberty-fueled emotions calm a bit. I'm not hostile to an interpretation of the film that says it's primarily about lesbian love and/or lesbian self-discovery, but I didn't see it that way.

"Water Lilies" is a shade under 90 minutes, looks and sounds great on DVD, and has easy-to-read subtitles that can be turned on and off. Extras are limited to the film's trailer, five minutes of deleted scenes, and four minutes of screen tests.

If you enjoy understated, character-based films that don't hit you over the head with big moments, you'll likely enjoy "Water Lilies" well enough. You'll even get a little erotic content. However, if erotic content is the main reason you're interested in this movie (for intellectual, prurient, or whatever reason), you'll likely be a little disappointed.

Water Lilies is Water Lilies
Exordia N. | Iowa City, Iowa USA | 12/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

After viewing Naissance des pieuvres two days after my arrival home from the East Coast, I want to re-negociate this maxim: Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I declare: certain beauty, however, should be in the eyes of all beholders.

I hardly ever write film reviews especially lesbian ones (most, if not nearly all, are crap) because my memory of viewed films is so flimsy and vacuous and I have no talent on writing one. But I cannot resist pontificating on this one: Water Lilies. The original French title of the film Water Lilies is Naissance des Pieuvres, which translates to "birth of the octopuses," directed by a first time director (yes, a neophyte), Celine Sciamma. Unlike most boring critics do, I won't recapture the plot or summarize it in the most obscene way that takes away from the film extraordinary presentation so if you wish to form literary images of what the film constitutes before viewing the movie I highly recommend that you traffic websites such as imbd or rotten tomatoes or potatoes or onions.

Some less intelligent people call Water Lilies trash (I don't blame them. They disposed their how-to-appreciate-brilliant-films into the trash bin and walked airheaded into the theater) and other unreasonable critics claim it to be pretentious and whatnot. This review here by Manohla Dargis is ugly, dry, and ineloquent as any floor that hasn't been swept in twenty years. [..]

At any rate, I am not here to review reviews of Naissance des pieuvres...It is, really, a brilliant film (lesbian content-wise or not). Its captivating level of rawness and maturity can't be compared to any film about teens I have seen. A strong meditation on the ambiguity of sexual desires. And it offers a fresh gaze on teen angst and budding same gender friendships in an age of pornography. Because of actresses' strong, dictating body language/performance, the film could almost fall under the genre of Silent Film. The acting is superb by Pauline Acquart (who plays Marie) and Adèle Haenel (Floriane). Haenel may be the next Catherine Denueve.

The scene starting with "I swear, Marie..." The gaze, the body gesture, the passion from the two leading protagonists hit my heart like lightning. The shot left a billion octupuses inside the vault of my imagination...I simply don't know how to it reached out to me.

As Andrew O'Hehir stated so precisely:
"Dismissed in some quarters as trash because it depicts a sexual act (of sorts) between two teenage girls, Water Lilies struck me instead as a hypnotic and wholly convincing look at teen culture from the inside, with all its courage, cruelty and unspoken codes of silence intact.""