Review: À tout de suite
|Isild Le Besco stars in À tout de suite|
Lest you think France's Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) is vieux chapeau (old hat), À tout de suite, done in the style (black and white, some hand-held camerawork, etc.) that revolutionized cinema in the late 1950s, lives up to the English translation of its title: Right Now.
Fans of French film will find a plot with some resemblance to Godard's Breathless but a pace more akin to Rohmer (without the talkiness) or Truffaut. At times À tout de suite borders on parodying its own style, but more often it's deadly serious.
As an unnecessary affectation the main characters have no names – or they do, but we never learn them. In 1975, Lili (Isild Le Besco, a Renée Zellweger type), a 19-year-old Parisian art student, is introduced in bed with her best girlfriend, a fellow student. (To us they're the Blonde and the Brunette.)
This isn't their love story. They're hit on in a bar by a player named Gérard but they're more interested in his buddy, Bada (The Moroccan), played by Ouassini Embarek. Bada shares a bed with both young women that night but come morning he's all Lili's.
Their love affair blossoms until one dog day afternoon when Lili gets a call from Bada. He's robbing a bank, two people have died, they've taken hostages. The next call asks whether Bada and his surviving partner in crime, Alain (Nicolas Duvauchelle), can spend the night at Lili's.
They do, and in the morning Lili goes on the run with them and Alain's girlfriend, Joelle (Laurence Cordier). Like a honeymoon on the lam they go to Madrid, then Casablanca ("They call it Casa") and finally Athens, where Lili is stranded after being given a hard time by authorities at the airport. A stranger in a strange land, she becomes dependent on the kindness of strangers.
A Lebanese man puts her up in a hotel for the night with no strings attached and hooks her up with a Greek friend who wants to hire her as a "baby-sitter," with strings attached. She escapes from him and meets a woman on the street who gets her a job in a shop and gives her a place to live. Lili repays her with sex, but only once.
There's no high-powered, American-style climax, but things are resolved, one detail at a time, as Lili embarks on life as an adult.
Writer-director (OK, auteur, since that's what the New Wave was about) Benoît Jacquot has made a film that pays homage to the past without seeming dated. Some content may be dictated by the fact that 1975 was the height of "bisexual chic" but the story could easily be taking place in the present. Nostalgiacs and now people should be equally pleased.
Steve Warren is a local actor and film reviewer. His reviews can also be seen weekly in the Sunday Paper.