Marie Baei Des Anges

by

comment

Whenever in Chicago, your scribe enjoys a visit to the Field Museum. There's plenty to see, including a large selection of stuffed animals, beautiful but dead.

Beautiful but dead. That's the only way to describe this film by Manuel Pradal. If Jean-Jacques Beineix resurrected the French New Wave, Pradal has stuffed it and mounted it on the screen. The film has a stunning look, but there's no life to the pretty pictures.

Marie Baie des Anges takes us to the French Riviera where a pack of lawless kiddies do their thing. By day, they swim in the shadow of a rock formation allegedly imbued with the spirits of star-crossed lovers. By night, they get drunk and run around. The most sanguine of the lot is Orso (Frederic Malgras), a poker-faced tough who dresses like a runway model. He catches the eye of Marie (Vahina Giocante), a 15-year old temptress rife with ennui and corrosive carnality. Orso doesn't take her bait and she is left to romp around with a pack of cartoon American sailors, one of whom seems to have escaped a Gene Kelly movie. Pradal is shameless indeed.

Eventually, our two nihilists hook up and retreat to a remote island where they explore their idyllic, albeit tempestuous love. By now, the film has lost whatever hypnotic quality it had in the early going.

Pradal, riffing on Godard, loves his jump cuts and they are highly effective as we try to get our bearings in the sun-splashed hell of the young monsters. Cinematographer Christophe Pollock is an absolute wizard with the camera. You'd be proud to hang any of the frames from Orso's exhilarating train trips high above the sparkling blue water of the Mediterranean. But the film never settles down into a coherent plot with fully developed characters and the high gloss aesthetic quickly becomes an empty stylistic ruse. Form can play the beard for a lack of substance for only so long.

At the same time, despite all the publicity about the film's erotic nature, there's very little heat between the leads. Giocante looks good, but she couldn't act her way out of a Chanel bag. Malgras comes across as a comatose young Richard Gere. Together, they seem more ready for a nap than a shag. Invariably, a gun is produced to try to kick some life into the proceedings and Pradal ratchets up his crazy jump-cutting to prepare us for the climax.

Overall, this is a film with potential squandered on the altars of pastiche and laziness. It's simply not good enough to give us clichés of '50s Americana and Godard dressed up in an arty '90s gloss. Then again, we've been singing the same song ever since Breathless, haven't we?

More plot and less posing, please.

E-mail comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.