Sitting in the dark, staring blankly at Marie Baie des Anges, I kept myself awake by wondering at the state of French film in America. Movies like L’eau Froide (Cold Water) and Les Amants du Pont Neuf can’t get screens, while crap like this plays at the prestige venues under the Sony Classics imprimatur. Of course it’s said that it all comes down to money, the decision of which films live or die in the U.S. And it’s true that Marie Baie features a pretty 15-year-old who can be featured prominently in the advertising while copywriters gush about her smoldering sexuality and invoke the blessed name Bardot. If that screams “money,” than what of Pont Neuf‘s ravishing Juliette Binoche or Cold Water‘s young Virginie Ledoyen?
Of course it doesn’t make sense. But that’s no justification for a film as bad as this one taking your eight bucks on a Sunday afternoon. Director Manuel Pradal’s debut feature is an inert coming-of-age story that wants to be part The 400 Blows and part Los Olvidados, but has neither the heart nor the teeth. Vahina Giocante is the titular Marie, moping around the French Riviera clad in a knitted brow and a tight red sundress. She drives the local boys crazy but prefers the faster company of a group of charming, predatory American sailors. The wiry 17-year-old Frederic Malgras gives off a creditable Larry Clark vibe as Orso, a local delinquent. Eventually, Orso and Marie hook up and escape, Blue Lagoon-style, to a little island. But the restless Orso can’t settle down, electing instead to head back to civilization with Marie on his arm and crime on his mind.
All of this is so listless that I amused myself at the screening by scribbling little notes to myself. “She’s looking at the gun like she doesn’t know what the hell it is.” “Is that a furrowed brow, or a knitted brow?” “Godard said all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun, but Pradal proves that you also need a shred of imagination.” And “What is this — ennui?”
Giocante has already been hailed by some writers as the hottest, newest thing in French cinema, but I’d rather keep my eyes on Valentina Cervi, who was magnetic in the otherwise lamentable biopic Artemisia. Giocante’s greatest talent may be that, seen in the proper light, hers is still a child’s face. Her sullen composure on the brink of womanhood, frowning as she does a little cooch dance to distract the locals while her boyfriend steals a boat, is the sole attraction of a wholly uninteresting film.
Written and directed by Manuel Pradal
Edited by Valerie Deseine
Cinematography by Christophe Pollock
Starring Vahina Giocante and Frederic Malgras
French language with English subtitles
Theatrical aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic)