Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Here comes the rain again...

So, I do like to pop critically darling balloons, though seldom solely for the sake of popping them. Though I will assure you that I have not built up enough animosity to lash out against the Dardenne brothers (au contraire, I have no feeling one way or the other for them), neither do I write this luke-warm review of their new critically heralded L'Enfant (which I'll allow you to translate on your own) as an act of critic rebellion. The film, which I saw on a little trek through New York city (allow this to serve as explanation for my lax blogging), is a quietly deadly one. Though I'm none too certain that the Dardennes are not more than a tad too exploitational. The situation for our anti-hero Bruno and his girlfriend Sonia is "heart-breakingly" rugged. When Sonia gives birth and brings the infant home at the beginning of the film to find her flat subletted, the typical (though somewhat less stark) fluorescent glare of the neon lights illuminates the tenement flat that she must (of course) trudge up innumberable flights of stairs, again, child in tote. When she finally finds Bruno hustling on the street for change, it is (as many liken it) reminiscent of Bresson, but also Fassbinder's little seen TV Melodrama I Only Want you To Love Me, only here, the source for our protagonist's poverty-denial spending sprees proves more to be himself than his girlfriend, and especially not the child (note I do not say "his" child as - do not fret, I am not giving away anything - he would show more pride to a leather cap than his own flesh and blood). When he finally sells the child into the black market - a particularly frank and harrowing scene - your want of a more diverse and complex figure of Peter Pan-dom comes to its apex.

Not to fully discredit the film. There are many fantastic elements to the film. The acting is at times stellar, at times minute - with a real focus on Déborah François' Sonia, who is really given the short end of the acting stick here. The shots are remarkably composed, with a spunk and vitality that lifts the down-and-out morality play to a more relatable space (not that we must relate to everything we see!). But plot pits and moral judgement are the film's mains flaws. Imagine the Fem-y bald girl in art class who paints a picture of her Vagina. When Bruno sells little Jimmy, the "Oh my god!" anti is just entirely to manipulative and vibrant for such a muted world. It's too easy to woo you with the child factor (which is where the film's greatest emotional moments lie). And though the final scene plays itself out rather well, the events leading up to it are just a tad too manipulative to make someone like Bresson smile at his tutelage.


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