Monday, April 24, 2006


Les Film du Fleuve
Directed by: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardienne
Length: 100 min.
Country: Belgium/France
Format: 35mm
Date Viewed: 13 April, 2006

Seattle can be a frustrating town when it comes to foreign films. Mediocre or bad movies like Kung Fu Hustle or A Tale of Two Sisters can get mutli-week runs, but real films, like This Charming Girl, The Best of Youth or the recent L'Enfant, either can't get distribution or get a quiet, blink-and-you-miss-it one week run at one of our wildly overpriced Landmark cinemas.

L'Enfant follows the Dardienne brothers' mind-blowing work, The Son, and is a strong film, if not as instantly satisfying as its predecessor. L'Enfant takes a little time to unfold, and is slow, though not to the point of being boring. The cinematography sticks to the same style as The Son, and is used to great effect in both (though it works better in the earlier film because the intensity of the camera work matches the intensity inside Olivier).

The story is a fascinating one, and the main character, Bruno (Jeremie Renier), is one of the most interesting characters in recent memory. The child referred to in the title every bit as much as his son, Bruno is an amoral man-child living hand-to-mouth in a bleak, harsh Belgian industrial town, eschewing any job ("only fuckers work," he retorts) or responsibility that might come his way, and all too ready to sell his new son in the same manner that he sells his hat early in the film. He does this thinking, with all seriousness and innocence, that him and his girlfriend will have another baby, but now they have a lot of money to spend (most likely within the next couple of days on new jackets and convertible rentals). It's hard to think of another film with a main character who commits this many shocking acts and yet is not a "bad" person. It's harder to think of a film that could pull of this main character as skillfully as the Dardiennes do.

Apparently, the film serves largely as a religious parable, but any religious references were lost on this young atheistically leaning reviewer. The main theme, which was thankfully easier to pick up on, is the first spark of responsibility in young men (making this a good double feature with You Can Count on Me); the time when a man realizes that his actions can affect others in negative ways (notice his confusion when his girlfriend, Sonia, faints after learning the fate of their baby) and that he must be held accountable for said actions. This spark comes to Bruno in the last shot of the film. [Minor Spoiler] Before this, he acts so selfishly so often, that when the spark hits him and Sonia forgives him, we still think that she is making a huge mistake on this guy even though he has made an important step towards redemption. We can't help but question whether he will take this spark and build on it to become a more responsible man, or if he will reject it and commit more stupid acts that Sonia will have to pay for (shades of Kenji Mizoguchi's works). The amazing ending is simultaneously and strangely depressing, frustrating and hopeful.


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