Water Lilies (2007)

2 06 2008

Celine Sciamma builds a very promising foundation in this, her debut feature. Really, if there’s anything flawed about the film its that is perhaps fits in far too closely to “my” type of cinema almost to the point of self-parody. In other words, this is pretty much a perfectly executed textbook example of how to deal with alienation, adolescence, and all the other themes that those imply. Emotionally, it feels a bit too one-note, but that’s probably only because the teenage sexual discovery thing has already been done to death.

Marie is a reserved teenager whose only friendship comes from the much louder (and much more obnoxious) Anne, a synchronized swimmer. Marie attends one of Anne’s meets and spots Floriane, the team captain, and seems to fall in love with her. In the mean time, Francois accidentally walks in on a naked Anne, which somehow leads her to thinking they are in a relationship. In truth, Francois is involved with Floriane who can only attend “dates” if Marie accompanies her. Their friendship grows, in spite of the jealous tension and Floriane begins to reveal her secrets.

Even though it does so rather elegantly, this does pretty much follow all the borderline-cliché requirements for a film about growing up and the disenchantment that it brings. Of course, you have a very awkward and shy girl falling for the more popular and outgoing girl but there’s also plenty of party sequences and overwhelmingly awkward scenes of confrontation. Even though this (obviously) lacks the austerity, it does indeed create a sense of ennui and tension that reminds one of Tsai Ming-Liang. In fact, several shots seems to have been directly taken out of The Wayward Cloud, which of course is a plus in my book.

The story isn’t the most original one of all-time, but it does still ring pretty true, though perhaps only in a very one-dimensional sense. Not too long ago, I would have been blown away by this, but that “woe is me” love-story sensibility is a bit too superficial, especially when compared to my usual cinematic experiences. Still, it’s pretty much a perfectly-made film that does show something of a personality. Hopefully, Sciamma’s next narrative source will be a bit more emotionally substantial.

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