A Toute de Suite

by

French director Benoît Jacquot sure loves the cinematic stylings of Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer and Jean-Luc Godard. With his latest film, the director wears his New Wave sensibilities on his sleeve. Set in 1974, and adapted from Elisabeth Fanger’s memoir, the film centers on 19-year-old art student Lili (Isild Le Besco), a bored Parisian whose wanderlust leads her astray. Living in a large apartment with her emotionally chilly father and meddlesome sister, Lili struggles with bourgeois ennui. She’s strong-willed and independent but stranded by a lack of vision. In other words, she’s ripe for the kind of intense liberation a good old-fashioned crime spree can bring.

At a nightclub, Lili is attracted to Bada (Ouassini Embarek), a handsome young Moroccan. After an impulsive sexual liaison, Lili becomes enamored with his brooding sensitivity. Sure enough, Bada is a bank robber, and when a job goes awry and a teller is killed, he and his volatile partner go on the lam, with Lili joining them. With forged papers and a giddy sense of adventure they flee to Spain, Morocco and Greece, their prospects becoming more dire with each stop.

Inevitably, Lili becomes useless to the men’s plans and Bada loses interest. Ditched in Greece and accosted by lowlifes, her privileged and sheltered naiveté is shattered.

At first Jacquot keeps the story moving, shuttling us from one intense scene to the next, with each encounter adding color and context to Lili’s experience. But by the final act, her downward spiral becomes a disjointed slog through limbo. Lila’s depression and obsessive miseries pile on without epiphany or drama and the film’s carefully constructed momentum is lost.

Besco, with her bee-stung lips and deceptively subtle beauty, plays her role with such understated vulnerability that it’s hard to believe she’s acting. She gives an authentic, soulful performance that accentuates Lili’s misguided passions and eventual loss of innocence. It’s almost enough to carry us through to the film’s relentlessly dreary and annoying fragmented final act — but not quite. For all its New Wave pretensions, À Tout de Suite never finds the acute emotional resonance the story requires.

 

In French with English subtitles. Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), at 7 and 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18-19, and at 5 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 20. Call 313-833-3237.

Jeff Meyers writes about film for MetroTimes. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

comment