Isild Le Besco, the young star of Benoît Jacquot’s Tout de Suite, has the face of someone woken from a thousand-year slumber. Her lids are heavy; her brow is impossibly smooth. With her serene ovoid face and tragic curving mouth, Le Besco would have made a sensational cubist model.
In Tout de Suite, adapted from Elisabeth Fanger’s memoir
When I Was 19, Le Besco plays a character at once passive and daring. The title can be translated as “Right Now,” but shot in luminous black-and-white, the movie is set in the mid ’70s. Le Besco’s Lili is a bored, mildly wanton rich girl—a 19-year-old art student living in her father’s labyrinthine Paris apartment. She goes out dancing in a Belleville dive and falls madly in love with a cherubic-looking Moroccan boy. Innocent as he appears, Bada (Ouassini Embarek) turns out to be a petty criminal; a few nights later, he calls Lili from a botched bank job, replete with hostages and casualties. She shelters him and his surviving confederate, taking it happily on the lam, first in Spain, then Morocco, and finally Greece, where her trip takes a more hazardous, discombobulated, and existential turn.
Lili is more expressive than articulate; not surprisingly for Jacquot, who made his reputation largely as a director of stylish young women in the act of self-actualization, the movie revolves around Le Besco’s Picasso-mask visage. Less a tale of desperado lovers than a cruel story of youth,
Tout de Suite is framed largely in close-up, with few transitional shots and a narrative that grows increasingly fragmented. (The filmmaker occasionally interpolates newsreel clips or interjects his protagonist’s voice-over to temper the tale’s immediacy.)
Jacquot’s most recent movies—including Sade, which featured the then teenage Le Besco as a Marquis-smitten ingenue—have been flossy period pieces. Tout de Suite harks back to the suave and somewhat creepy psychologically fraught trio—The Disenchanted, A Single Girl, Seventh Heaven—that he made during the ’90s. Like those, it has its fairy-tale aspect; in this case, it’s the story of a sleeping beauty roused.