Quietly compelling crime drama
Lleu Christopher | Hudson Valley, NY | 05/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The story of a young fugitive couple fleeing the law is hardly new, but A Tout de Suite tells it in a refreshing way. Can you imagine a Hollywood crime thriller with no car chases, shootouts, explosions or even fist-fights --where all of the action takes place off-screen? Unthinkable. French director Benoit Jacquot, however, manages to maintain suspense and create fascinating characters without the usual overkill that is typical of American cinema. The film takes place in 1975, and with the black and white photography adding to the minimalist spirit, we could easily believe the movie was made back then as well. Lili (Isild Le Besco), an art student from Paris, falls in love with Bada (Ouassini Embarek), a young Moroccan who turns out to be a bank robber. During a robbery, hostages were taken and two people died, so he is a seriously wanted fugitive. Lili decides to flee with Bada and his partner, and they go through Spain, Morocco and Greece with fake passports and a bag full of stolen cash. There is, as I mentioned, little action; there is also surprisingly little dialogue. Aside from some short but intense sex scenes, most of the film's meaning is communicated through the facial expressions of the characters, especially Lili, who has a quiet intensity and a gift for conveying depths of barely-expressed emotion.
The film is primarily about Lili's experiences. When she becomes separated from the two men in Greece, she is without contacts or money. She is helped by several people who, predictably, want something in return. She must make her way in these difficult circumstances, taking what she needs while avoiding becoming an object of exploitation. True to the rest of the film, the end does not come with Lili revealing what lessons she has learned. We have to take what we have seen and process it through our own senses and minds without the benefit of heavy-handed proselytizing. A Tout de Suite is proof that speed, violence and special effects are not essential for creating significant and memorable movies. Along with the striking black and white scenes of the various locations, the absence of a soundtrack further compels us to pay close attention to the characters and their surroundings."
Fascinating and intriguing
Madame Butterfly | Seattle, WA | 10/31/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Lili (Isild Le Besco) is a moody and rebellious 19 year old living a comfortable life with her father and sister in Paris. She sneaks her girlfriend in every night and sleeps with her, although we don't quite know if they are lesbians. Out with her girlfriend one day, a man introduces himself saying he is waiting for a friend. When the friend of this guy, a young Moroccan immigrant, shows up, she is immediately attracted to him. She and her girlfriend go to a club to meet them and she brings this Moroccan guy home.
One day he calls her and tells her that he's robbed a bank, it's all over the news, and asks if he and his partner can hide at her place. She agrees and sneaks them in. The partner's girlfriend comes to pick them up and they all leave on the run: first to Spain, then to Morocco, then Greece. At first they live the high life, but after a while, not having the ability to easily launder the stolen cash or readily use it, tempers start to flare as they all start getting on each other's nerves. When they get to Greece, Lili is questioned by immigration and is set free, but the others abandoned her outside the airport, leaving her alone and broke.
Devastated, she is befriended: first by a man who helps her, then sets her up with a letch. Then by a young woman, who takes her in and helps her find a job, but who also wants to be with her. Always looking for her guy, she is miserable and finally calls her father to take her home. She never gives up trying to find her guy though.
This is the typical story of upper middle class girl falls for bad boy, and the background story as to why ---father is clueless and distant, and the mother is not involved although she lives near by--- is not new. What makes this movie fascinating is not the story itself, but the telling of it.
Although this movie was technically set in 1975, it was filmed in black and white giving it more of a 60's French New Wave film, feel to it. Even the cars in a lot of street scenes were of the 60's. There are lots of long, still camera shots of scenes without dialogue giving us an insight into what the characters are feeling and experiencing through their senses, adding to the introverted, stark ambience of this film.
The other thing one notices is the scarcity of dialogue. We are told this story from the perspective of Lili, and what worked really well here was Isild Le Besco's ability to express so much with her face and eyes. Constant shots of what is basically an understated blank look lets us experience the intensity of what she feels, but in an utterly implosive way. While she doesn't say what she is feeling much, we know exactly what is going on with her. I was totally mesmerized by her and feel that she actually carried this movie.
On the whole, this film was not a particularly great film, however, there was something about it that really kept me tuned in and left me with an unforgettable residue of feeling for it when it was over.
Long and Slow
Daniel G. Lebryk | 09/01/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not a big fan of this film. Normally this would sit right in a sweet spot of the kind of film I love. This one, nope, didn't make the cut. I can't put my finger on it, but I seem to have seen this story before - bourgoise, spoiled rotten, bored girl; finds adventure with a Morrocan guy; they sleep together; he turns out to be a thief; she runs off with him; and things go bad. Kind of a hackneyed old story.
The film is a bit unsettling at first, shot in 2004 in black and white; it is supposed to have a 1970's feel to it - or set in the 1970's. I knew the DVD release was brand new, so I had to check release and filming dates - sure enough its a current film. But the director got some things a bit wrong with the era; nothing I can put my finger on specifically, but the film just wasn't perfectly 1970's. I lived in Paris at that time, and it never really felt like this film. He intercut stock footage from the period, which was all slightly out of focus and badly shot; so it stuck out like a sore thumb compared to the more modern filming.
Then we move to the acting. Its all kind of cardboard, long vapid staring off into space. The lead character Lili, Isild Le Besco, spent about half her screen time staring, very much like the cover art on the DVD. She spent much of the rest drawing. And all the rest without her clothes on, or in bed. The supporting cast was pretty much just there, not a ton of dialog, not much action; they all sort of orbited around Lili, while she was sad, serious, and bored.
Film wise, it is interesting to see black and white filming. But the director chose some of the worlds worst film stock to shoot on. The whole thing was grainy beyond imagination. Black and white can be sumptuous with fineness of tone, details. Instead he created a high contrast grainy mess. The editing was very sad, so many scenes should have been cut, but we remain looking at something we should have long ago stopped seeing. At an hour and 40 minutes, the film is long. At the one hour mark the film turns into almost paint drying. The last 10 minutes are decent, and do put a bow on the story.
The film is shown in French with English subtitles. It is not rated, but would likely be R rated if the MPAA watched this one. There is a small amount of strong language. There is a certain amount of nudity. Isild Le Besco is not afraid to take off her clothes, and we are treated to views of her entire pretty body (they did get one thing exactly right about the 70's, a certain lack of shaving). There is one brief scene of full frontal male nudity. From the descriptions, it might seem like this is a sensual romp with Lili. In fact its kind of the opposite. Aside from her first coupling with the Morrocan guy, the sex scenes are not at all sensual. There are no explicit sex scenes at all in this film (there's a strange scene with two men where Lili twists and turns between the two of them, but nothing other than her body is visible - hardly an explicit scene). So younger viewers need not apply to watch this film.
The DVD bonus features are the worst. There are several 'extended' scenes. I watched them, and honestly cannot tell what is extended. They are at best super lame. Don't even bother.
My complaint with this film, it is too long and moves very slowly, there is no real romance or chemistry between the coupling characters, it was a poor attempt at capturing the film style of the 70's, the filming was down right bad (black and white has so much potential), and the story was just not interesting. I love French film, I love black and white films, I love slow moving delicate films; this one just didn't engage me at all."