Jan 27, 2010 1
Téchiné’s latest film, loosely based on a real-life story in which a woman fakes an anti-Semitic attack, ultimately disappoints because it stops short at addressing political issues in favor of an all-too vague character sketch, producing nothing more than a hazy portrait of a traumatized young woman. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if the character was as intense and sensitive as say, Maïté [Élodie Bouchez] from his earlier film Wild Reeds, but Jeanne (Émilie Dequenne, who also played the title character in Rosetta) is dazed and disconnected and she rollerblades effortlessly through the banlieues of Paris, headphones firmly planted upon an abundance of flowing curls.
The film is divided into two parts: Circumstances and Consequences. The circumstances that lead up to the event just as shocking as the staging of the event itself; it’s the aftermath that is resolved all too easily. After the alleged assault, Jeanne and her mother name (played by Catherine Deneuve) visit friends in the country to escape the media scrutiny and to reflect on what happened. Now maybe I am jealous that I can’t be en congé all the time, but I have seen too many French films lately in which a trip to the seaside or mountain resort cures all, and it’s starting to rake on my nerves. (Staring moodily at the paysage doesn’t always put things in perspective for me.) Besides indulging in this well-worn cliché, the film also includes two Highly Symbolic Sequences (a Bar Mitzvah, a dangerous boat ride in the rain) that detract from Téchiné’s free-flowing, anti-determinist style.
It’s worth noting that we had a similar occurrence in the U.S. recently, when a McCain voter carved a “B” into her face, claiming that she had been attacked to stir up ire before the election. She was almost immediately discredited and the media rightfully downplayed her story, and her stunt did not have its intended effect of tarnishing Barack Obama or his supporters. While these two fabricated hate crimes are obviously very different, I think they’re both interesting because they reveal society’s prejudices: who we readily believe, the burden of proof that justice requires, and the media’s role in the frenzy that inevitably follows. La Fille du RER barely touches on all of these issues, and therefore is more evasive than eye-opening.