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Simon Read [Film Festival 06.30.09] movie review drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Juliette Garcias
Writers: Juliette Garcias
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 6 out of 10

Does anyone remember a scene in the short-lived John Lovitz animation, ‘The Critic’, where his character, a snooty NY film critic, is dancing around singing, “I like French films, pretentious, boring French films! I like French films, two tickets s'il vous plait!” to the tune of Frere Jacque? I think he may have found his ideal movie here.

A feature debut by Juliette Garcias , Be Good, begins with a young woman called Nathalie (Anaïs Demoustier), starting a new job in a rural French bakery, where she delivers bread to the locals, who vary from kooky, elderly eccentrics, to beautiful young swingers. She’s a deeply troubled girl with a mysterious past and a dark secret, and she begins a journey to expose a severe form of hypocrisy that leads to her redemption, and the destruction of another’s life. That’s pretty much the best I can do as far as a synopsis goes, the film is steeped in heavy-handed symbolism and has a glacial pace, which makes it an extremely difficult film to ‘tough-out’.

Nathalie spies on the various inhabitants of the village, indulges in a spot of overtly sexual self-harm, makes friends with the old-folks (clipping their toe-nails in one instance) and eventually becomes the babysitter for a pair of musicians, one of whom is linked to her past. In one scene she slowly dips her hand into a large bucket of raw, living snails; an old man lifts her hand out and washes it in a river. She lies constantly to people about having a boyfriend, then a fiancé and finally, claims widow status. After an argument she runs through a field at night, while a dog chases her and humps her legs, she kicks it off and screams.

These were the ‘highlights’ in a film that, while a complete story, and an interesting one, takes it’s time in the telling. Perhaps it’s that I’ve been seeing two or three films a day at the EIFF, but more than any, this seemed to drag on and on, to the point where it would take Nathalie ten minutes to walk slowly across a room, and look at a chair. Some of my favorite films are indeed from France, so this not a cultural difference or distaste for subtitles or symbolism, I just wish it had employed a more get-up-and-go sense of direction, and been less wistful and lulling.

Some people eat this stuff for breakfast, and to them I say; go forth and engage with it, it’s certainly not a bad film, it’s well acted, well shot, and contains a few real shocks. I just prefer a brisk pace and less staring in the mirror and bursting into tears. By the end I was absolutely bored rigid, and was so glad to get outside and experience real life again, if you think you might end-up feeling the same way after such a slow moving piece, then my advice is to leave well alone. If you’re unsure, bring a book.

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Andy Lyth (13 years ago) Reply

Saw this film last night at FACT in Liverpool; I must say I found it incredibly moving and effective. The screening was followed by a Q&A with the writer and director, Juliette Garcias, and it was interesting to hear her talk about the genesis for the film and her thoughts on the way that the media deals with the issues portrayed in the film.
I do agree that it did move perhaps a little too slowly in places, but it looked absolutely gorgeous on the big screen so I certainly didn't find it dull.

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