Friday, March 21, 2008

Naissance des Pieuvres (Water Lilies)

Thanks to a friend that knows quite a lot about me and told me that I would love this movie, I ended up having very big expectations about it. My huge expectations were not only met, but also highly surpassed. This is one of the best movies I have seen lately in the genre and even if the story did not belonged to the genre, I would also have just love it. But, fortunately it is a lesbian interest movie and an outstanding one.

The first feature film written and directed by Céline Sciamma tells a bittersweet and beautiful story about three 15-years-old girls that in one summer discover about their own sexuality in the must honest and credible adolescent way. This is a very-very French movie, but somehow Sciamma was able to tell the story in a sort of a neutral and timeless way that any woman from any country, any age, any background, and any sexual preference can relate to one or more of the characters because the extremely good way the characters are presented and developed; and consequently, because the way characters behave, feel and think. The story is set around the very femme (only women do it) and amazing world of synchronized swimming so be prepared to get a glimpse of this very hard and beautiful to look at sport. Chapeau to Sciamma as a writer.

But Sciamma deserves a bigger chapeau as a director as she was able to create a beautiful movie that will mesmerize you as soon as the story starts to develop and the three main characters start to interact. What is amazing is that Sciamma was able to extract from the three very young thespians such excellent and outstanding performances that will make you feel absolutely everything that is happening in the story. Then the movie has fabulous slow pace and marvelous silences that allow you to see actresses’ expressions, delicate touches and even see in their faces intentions of what is coming.

The movie and story to me has one lead that is amazingly performed by Pauline Acquart that plays the awkwardly shy Marie, that even if she’s the same age as the other two, still looks and behaves like a small girl but totally grows in front of you. Acquart truly carries the movie like a pro and is hard to believe that is her first performance ever. Then we have Adele Haenel that plays Floriane, the very popular stunning blonde, physically well developed with the model-like body who is the synchronize swim team’s captain and the object of Marie’s desire. The last is Anne played by Louise Blachère that’s Marie’s best friend and has a body and personality that’s Marie’s total opposite. All three have superb performances that are amazingly believable even when they do ugly, confrontational or shocking things.

As a movie has excellent cinematography with very nice underwater scenes and one outstandingly framed scene when Marie and Floriane walk up the stairs; but generally outdoors and indoors cinematography is well above average. Special mention to editing that makes this movie and the story flawlessly flowing, so much that in the end perhaps your heart will be smashed into pieces, as in the most outstanding French style, this movie does not have a traditional Hollywood happy ending. Still the end is so real –especially when you are or were 15-years-old- that you will forgive Sciamma for breaking your heart.

The literal translation of this movie title is “Birth of Octopuses” and Sciamma and critics relate the name to the underwater movements girls do when doing synchronize swimming and yes it is obvious; but I couldn’t help to think that the literal translation is not only a better descriptor for the movie, but also is totally related to the story that I believe is set at an age where must of us girls start to “use” our tentacles and gee, do these three girls “use” their tentacles in this story!

On a more serious note, I have to say that this movie highly transcends the lesbian interest, the girly-girly movie and any other label that you could think could constrain it to a niche market. This is an excellent movie that will appeal to anyone that like flawless European movies and just browse this blog to find most of the honors, nominations and awards this movie has had while doing the fest circuit after being premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section. Just to mention one award Sciamma was honored with the Best First Film in the most prestigious French award: Prix Louis Delluc.

I had to wait almost a year to be able to see this movie, but the wait was more than worth it, as truly went beyond my high expectations. I strongly recommend this movie to all audiences that like and enjoy serious cinema and of course to those interested in the genre.


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