BAM’s annual “New French Films” spread includes two selections (The Secret of the Grain and Angel) soon to be released by IFC; all but those desperate for a sneak preview can wait. A third film, Journey to the Pyrénées, wasn’t available for preview. That leaves two essential nights of undistributed films. Mia Hansen-Løve’s feature debut, All Is Forgiven, maintains the psychological intimacy of a short story while fleshing out a novelistic life-and-death saga; its stylistic modesty covers its ambition for a long time. Victor (Paul Blain) is a happy family man; he’s also a raging coke addict. Hansen-Løve is Olivier Assayas’s fiancée, but her style hews closer to recent developments in the loosely grouped new Austrian and German cinemas, where dowdy people suffer through low-key romantic angst and self-consciously drab mise-en-scène. Appropriately, the story begins in Vienna before moving to France, covering not just European geography but some 20 years. How to film addiction and withdrawal? Hansen-Løve’s boldest, smartest move is to not even try; this is the story of everything Victor alters irrevocably while he’s off-screen. The ending makes the titular absolution gut-level moving, even if Hansen-Løve could stand to be a little less afraid of going straight for the jugular. Just Anybody, the first film in five years by Jacques Doillon, is a logical follow-up to 2003’s under-seen Raja; once again, Doillon proves himself a master of psychosexual gamesmanship on par with Hong Sang-Soo. If he’s less obviously playful and raises the stakes, this ex-con/cop/woman love triangle is, at all times, both grimly disturbing and unnervingly hilarious. At its center is the deceptively adorable but far from soft Camille (Clémentine Beaugrand), whose belief in the redeeming powers of promiscuity almost equals that of Breaking the Waves‘ Bess.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 12, 2008