Come Undone (Presque Rein) ideally exemplifies a specific type of French film — mannered in its unpretentiousness — yet demonstrates why this style works so well at conveying the thorny specifics of love affairs. While it often seems like the French believe they discovered genitalia and are anxious to share this with the world, the sexual explicitness that films such as Come Undone use so casually reveals more than flesh.
Seeing Mathieu (Jérémie Elkaïm) and Cédric (Stéphane Rideau) lying naked in bed, the former contentedly asleep and the later possessively watching him, provides hints at the deeper currents of their still-new relationship.
Eighteen-year-old Mathieu is enmeshed in another long family vacation on the French seaside — one made longer by his mother’s incapacitating depression and his sister’s sullenness — when he spies the slightly older (and infinitely more experienced) Cédric eyeing him. Cédric, whose personal setbacks only make him more boldly assertive, revels in his role as initiator. They fall into an easy relationship, the real vacation, perhaps, for Mathieu, who has yet to come to terms with a family tragedy. But big changes are in store for him, and as the narrative jumps back and forth between three time periods (that summer, his stay in a psychiatric hospital and a winter visit to his family’s vacation home), it’s apparent that Mathieu is just beginning to unravel his identity.
Director Sébastian Lifshitz (Les Terres Froides), who co-wrote the screenplay with Stéphane Bouquet, embraces this particular brand of raw realism but bathes it in a rich, cinematic glow. There’s a real beauty to his images that Dogme devotees fail to utilize in their rush to convey naturalism. The chilly blues of winter discontent, the blazing white of the hospital and the warm, vibrant colors of his summer with Cédric reflect Mathieu’s state of mind more effectively than the sparse dialogue.
While large-scale French films are novelistic in their scope, Come Undone and its brethren are more like concise short stories, thumbnail sketches of messy lives in constant upheaval. Their achievement is finding the grace notes in individual stories and the beauty of flux.
Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.
Showing exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.