Eager Bodies (2003)

12 07 2008

Xavier Giannoli’s debut, Eager Bodies, is not the most unique or striking of films, but it is a very good entry in that shakycam relationship cinema mostly dominated by Ray Carney-championed American directors. Along with Jean-Paul Civeyrac’s Man’s Gentle Love, Giannoli’s film is one of the few French films of this ilk. Perhaps unfair, but the comparisons to Civeyrac’s aforementioned feature are inevitable. From a narrative assessment, they aren’t very similar but they are both relationship-driven French films made on a very low budget on digital. Eager Bodies has a shriller setup but it actually becomes the much less plot-driven of the two films. It lacks Civeyrac’s attempts at poetry, but on digital, those seem pretty awkward anyway. This is a much more straightforward film, but pretty good none the less.

Charlotte and Paul are in love, but their relationship hits a road bump when Charlotte has to undergo chemotherapy. Understandably, both are quite scared, but they begin to respond to the process differently. Charlotte becomes extremely depress, violent, and almost entirely passive-aggressive as Paul begins to spend less and less time with her, and more and more time with her cousin, Ninon. Charlotte anticipates and mentions the idea of Paul and her cousin having an affair before it actually happens, but once she accuses Paul, it begins to come true.

The events seem to have been taken straight out of a soap opera but they are handled quite naturally and never seem particularly over the top. It definitely helps that, like Civeyrac, Giannoli seems to have a fantastic sense of capturing intimacy. The, ahem “sex” scenes are much chaotic and spontaneous than they are in Civeyrac but equally poignant. Giannoli seems to be trying to do a Michael Winterbottom type of approach with jump cuts and close-ups but Giannoli’s scenes end up being a bit too fragmented to the point beyond comprehension. On the other hand, he does seem to give a lot more depth and attention to his characters than Winterbottom, or even Civeyrac for that matter. Perhaps this is just a result of the acting as it pretty fascinating. Some scenes are so intimate and believable that even Maurice Pialat would be proud.

Laura Smet’s character could have easily been reduced to the level of being disgusting and unlikable and only further her boyfriend temptation to have an affair but she comes off in a more realistic light. She is annoyingly passive-aggressive and manipulative, but in a way that is completely believable. In fact, most of her outbursts make no sense whatsoever. At times she does sway to the line of being a “bad” character but when one takes in to consideration everything else that has happened in the film, her whining seems understandable. The friction in Paul and Charlotte’s relationship is initially frustrating due to their inability to express how they obviously feel for each other but that is exactly what makes the film as great as it is. Such frustration is akin to the frustration that the characters themselves are likely feeling. The people here (not to mention people in real life) cannot provide monologues directly reflecting their thoughts like in a Eric Rohmer film.

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One response

16 07 2008
Allison Almodovar

awesome! Thanks for the review.

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