A Tout de suite

Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a major French Cinema enthusiast, so when a new French film opened in a local theatre (it won’t last – there were all of ten people watching it in a theatre that could seat 180), I figured I had to go.

A tout de suite may not be a great movie, but it is certainly a good one. What it really is is a reminder of how low Hollywood has caused us to set our standards, so that anything with even the slightest attention to quality film-making feels like a revelation.

Shot entirely in grainy black and white (a nice touch btw – the black and white gives it a nostalgic feel, the graininess makes the world it describes seem imperfect, a little out of focus, the way memories often are) A tout de suite is the tale of a young girl’s self-discovery. The main protagonist, Lili (played with a sort of ethereal intensity by Isild Le Bisco) falls in love with ayoung, good-looking bank robber; joins him in his flight from the law, enjoying a brief interlude of happiness in Spain and Morocco; ends up abandoned and alone in Athens and finally finds the courage to go back to Paris and start to make a life for herself. In some ways Lili’s journey is a metaphor for the ending of innocence, the expense of youth. Lili and Bada (her boyfriend) have a brief season of happiness together, but they are living on stolen time, and when it runs out they (or at any rate she) must find a way to go on, clinging to the dreams from that interlude, but being, at the same time, a realist. Life may be over, but existence goes on.

Stylistically, the movie owes much to the French New Wave – Godard’s influence is ever-present here – but while Jacquot manages to bring off the details of the style, the flair of Godard’s work is sorely missing*. The movie has a flat, documentary like feel to it – at times it feels almost like watching a reality show. This makes for a sort of gritty realism, which works well in the start of the movie, where we are allowed to watch the two young people coming together with an almost refreshing matter of factness, as well as in the end, where Lili finally calms down and adjusts to the bland, normal world around her. What is missing, I think, is the tension in the middle – the excitement these two people feel in their ‘vacation’ together – the passion, the freedom, the frenzy. Without this, the core of the movie seems strangely hollow, making it harder to relate to Lili’s obsession with Bada and making the eventual collapse of their relationship that much less affecting.

Overall, A tout de suite is a movie well worth watching – the plot is engaging, the performances are more than competent, the cinematography is excellent. If only there were a little more vision, a little more poetry (and perhaps, some sharper editing) this could have been a truly great film.

*The movie I was most reminded of was Godard’s Prenom Carmen – not, frankly, one of his better works.