February 7, 2010By Nick HammondArchive

Faith in French Films Restored

Julie-Marie Parmentier as Charly and Kolia Litscher as Nicolas.

At the tender age of 24, the actress Isild Le Besco has already directed two films, and each has featured her younger brother Kolia Litscher. In Charly, her second film, Litscher plays Nicolas, an inarticulate adolescent who runs away from his foster home and ends up living in a caravan on the outskirts of Nantes with a prostitute (the eponymous Charly), portrayed by Julie-Marie Parmentier.

Clearly influenced by the films of the Dardenne brothers, Le Besco opts for grim realism and is unafraid to allow scenes to unfold at a naturally slow pace, sometimes achieving an effect that is far from bleak; one episode in particular, when early in the morning Nicolas follows Charly on the long route from a night’s work to her caravan, is both gripping and yet also highly comic.

The movie was shot within 15 days, the length of time portrayed in the story, and this helps to give it a compellingly raw quality. The simple narrative (Nicolas finds a postcard of Belle-Île and decides to leave the boredom of his provincial home to search for what seems like a seaside paradise) allows the spectator to become engrossed in the characterization of the two principal characters.

And both central characters are played to perfection. The dialogue is often rudimentary (Nicolas answers most questions with the typically adolescent “Je sais pas”), but both Litscher and Parmentier give very subtle, unshowy performances. The scene in which the two read out an extract from Wedekind’s Spring Awakening is particularly effective in its touching clumsiness.

Above all, the depiction of the routine but often odd events of daily life are memorably executed by Le Besco: Nicolas trudging to a dairy to collect milk, his elderly foster mother listening to records in a darkened room, the attempts by a driver who has given Nicolas a lift to engage in conversation with the silent teenager, Charly leaving for work every day.

If you have been disappointed by the banality or pretentiousness of so many recent French movies, this may well be the one that will restore your faith in French filmmaking.

Nick Hammond

© 2007 Paris Update

More film reviews.

Reader Reaction

Reader Reaction
Click here to respond to this article (your response may be published on this page and is subject to editing).


What do you think? Send a comment:

Your comment is subject to editing. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for free!

The Paris Update newsletter will arrive in your inbox every Wednesday, full of the latest Paris news, reviews and insider tips.