sun 21/09/2014

DVD: Q / Mademoiselle Chambon | Film reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Q / Mademoiselle Chambon

Different erotic strokes for different folks

Cécile (Déborah Révy) takes a break in 'Q'

Two French films, both exploring the nature of the erotic charge and its impact on characters whose well-being is off balance. One leaves things mostly unsaid, with its leads barely expressing what’s hanging in the air. The other leaves nothing hanging in the air.

In Q, Cécile (Déborah Révy) gets on with it. Fetching up in nowhere-ville, France, after the death of her father, she’s looking to fill an empty space and create sexual havoc in her wake. Cécile needs conformation that the men she comes across are affected by her. She also needs to make the younger Alice (Hélène Zimmer) aware it’s okay to follow her sexual desire despite her repressive parents, giving her a hands-on, inhibition-busting tutorial in a lavatory.

You want single school ma’am Véronique Chambon and earthy, married builder Jean to get on with it

Chopping the film into chapters, a framing device depicts the female characters in a shower, naked from their shoulders down, verbally dissecting men. They could have done this clothed, perhaps in a coffee shop, but that’s not director Laurent Bouhnik’s style. Despite the nudity and real-but-acted sexual interaction, Q is, at its heart, a direct examination of loss, its effects and the act of moving on. But the affectations distract.

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Watch the trailer for Q (contains nudity)


Mademoiselle Chambon (****), though, is long on longueur, with director Stéphane Brizé deftly managing the subtle dynamics of an unexpected frisson. As theartsdesk has already noted, you want single school ma’am Véronique Chambon (Sandrine Kiberlain) and earthy, married builder Jean (Vincent Lindon) to get on with it. Even so, it's easy to submit to its mood.

Both films have other shortcomings. With Q, the sex and nudity don't matter and add little. More problematic are several portrayals that are ciphers. Révy carries the film while Zimmer does what she needs to, but otherwise everyone is hardly more than surface, generating little with which to engage when Révy is elsewhere. In Mademoiselle Chambon, Lindon doesn’t bed in because – from the British perspective – he’s ubiquitous in French film and therefore it's increasingly hard to see him afresh. Following Mademoiselle Chambon, Kiberlain completed The Bird, playing pretty much the same damaged, searching character. Don’t see it before Mademoiselle Chambon; it undercuts some of the empathy for Véronique Chambon. 

Each DVD is well served by extras, including interviews with the directors. Q has cast interviews and Mademoiselle Chambon some superfluous deleted scenes. Both films challenge in different ways but, despite the reservations, spin their web.

Watch the trailer to Mademoiselle Chambon

 

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