Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Beau fixe

1992, France, directed by Christian Vincent

When Beau fixe, which centers on four female medical students, was released in 1992 it seemed like essential viewing, for I was bewitched by a French doctor-to-be at the time. However, the film was never released in Ireland, and it's probably a good thing, too, for it might quickly have ended the infatuation, given that the four young women for the most part appear in a less-than-positive light: they're self-involved and often callous, and quick to betray each other's friendship.

The set-up is like something out of Rohmer: the quartet decamps from Paris to the sea to study for their exams, and they proceed to bicker and break up, all the while toying with the unexpected guest (a cousin of one of the women) with whom they are forced to share the house. Indeed, it's the arrival of Francis (played with a strikingly Tati-esque sense of the awkward by the gangly Frédéric Gélard) that reveals some of the group's least appealing characteristics: even while they differ on other points, they're united in their contempt for the unfortunate young man.

Paradoxically, though, Francis comes to seem the most fully realized of all the film's characters: even when the extremely capable actresses (Isabelle Carré, Estelle Larrivaz, Judith Rémy, Elsa Zylberstein) breathe life into individual scenes, the characters and their interactions have a mechanical air about them. It's only late in the film that we get a better sense of the women (Elsa Zylberstein's character especially) as actual people (a problem to some degree shared by Christian Vincent's previous film, La Discrète). That said, there are some highly enjoyable individual sequences, especially one where the girls watch childhood home movies, filled with a warmth absent from other parts of the film.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States