domingo, 9 de diciembre de 2007

Presque Rien

'Come Undone': Growing Pains, Without the Psychobabble.

With the movies and television so glutted with psychological jargon that reduces every relationship and situation to the same formulaic banalities, it's almost an event when a serious movie scrupulously refuses to connect the dots with the usual cookie-cutter analyses. "Come Undone," the French director Sébastien Lifshitz's beautifully acted film about an introspective 18-year-old boy's homosexual initiation, first love, suicide attempt and subsequent recovery leaves so much unsaid and unexplained that it captures the uncertainty and emotional turbulence of late adolescence with a poignancy that a more clinically articulate movie never could.

The film, which moves abruptly and freely back and forth through time over a span of a year and a half, is hardly at a loss for words, since its characters' often evasive, unpredictable musings sound like actual overheard conversation. Although several scenes bring in a sympathetic psychiatrist, the movie still refuses to label the inchoate emotional forces running rampant in its central character. By suggesting that these forces have as much to do with just simply being young, the movie takes you back to that uncertain age when the future looms like a huge out-of- focus lump of uncertainty and indecision.

Much of "Come Undone," which opens today at the Cinema Village, is set in a seaside town on the western coast of France near Nantes. It is here that Mathieu (Jérémie Elkaïm), a slender, handsome, serious young man on a summer vacation with his troubled family, meets robust, sensual Cédric (Stéphane Rideau), who catches his eye on the beach one day and follows him home. Mathieu's family, which he describes as hell, has more than its share of upheaval. His mother (Dominique Reymond), separated from his workaholic father, who has stayed in Paris, has been clinically depressed since giving birth to an ailing baby that died of cancer three years earlier. His teenage sister (Laetitia Legrix) is bitterly withdrawn and sarcastic. A family friend, Annick (Marie Matheron), who serves as part- time housekeeper and cook, has become a kind of surrogate mother to the teenagers as well as a caretaker to Mathieu's real mother, who spends much of her time in bed, heavily medicated.

While Mathieu expects to attend college, Cédric, who lives in Nantes and comes from a working-class background, works in a waffle shop and has dreams of attending computer school. Early in their relationship, Cédric admits that for a short time he hustled for a living.

The movie's vision of a Gallic seaside summer is as shimmeringly beautiful as it is in the films of Eric Rohmer. The camera's sensitivity to atmosphere and climate is so finely tuned that shots of the sea, sand and sky at various times of day and different seasons powerfully synergize with Mathieu's emotional life.

The depiction of Mathieu and Cédric's intense affair, whose ecstatic interludes are interrupted by angry spats, feels utterly real. While the movie has abundant male nudity and one hot sex scene, the camera never seems voyeuristic because everything is seen from Mathieu's essentially innocent perspective.

Although the movie opens with a flash-forward, it still comes as a shock when, in the middle of Mathieu and Cédric's idyll, it leaps ahead to discover a drawn, haggard Mathieu in the hospital having a tube forced down his throat after a suicide attempt. Exactly what triggered the act and how it was done are never stated. Had the movie ascribed the suicide attempt to anxiety about coming out, romantic betrayal, homophobia, family disapproval or genes (an inherited tendency toward depression, perhaps), it wouldn't register with the bittersweet resonance that it does.

For ultimately, "Come Undone" isn't a movie about homosexuality, depression or family dynamics. For a gay coming-out story, its sexual politics are extremely muted. Mathieu's affair with Cédric and his eventual unexpected connection with a former boyfriend of Cédric's are presented as the experiences of a sensitive, sheltered youth awkwardly grasping at a tentative independence and self-reliance. You feel his growing pains.

Directed by Sébastien Lifshitz.
Written in French by Mr. Lifshitz and Stéphane Bouquet.
Director of photography, Pascal Poucet.
Edited by Yann Dedet.
Music by Perry Blake.

With: Jérémie Elkaïm (Mathieu), Stéphane Rideau (Cédric), Dominique Reymond (Mother), Marie Matheron (Annick), Laetitia Legrix (Sarah) and Nils Ohlund (Pierre).

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