Friday, October 10, 2008

[French Film Festival] On Fire (Ca Brûle)

The Arsonist

If I could ask director Claire Simon a question, it would be where they had culled the footage of the extensive raging forest fire, if they had not set it ablaze themselves. It probably is the highlight of the movie, after sitting through a plodding pace of a story about a hot blooded teenager going about her life of idle holiday, and being infatuated with a fireman who had attended to her when she fell off her horse.

Livia (Camille Varenne) plays that teenage girl who falls for an older man, and lives her life being in quite a daze, spending long hours riding her horse around town, ridiculing and being ridiculed by peers, and contemplating joining the fire brigade just to be close to the man of her desires, Jean Susini (Gilbert Melki). It's quite episodic in its narrative, dwelling on her riding escapades, her impulsive and innovative streak in trying to get herself close to her man, the strange sexual games she plays with friends, followed by the documentary like admiration for forests going up in flames.

Yes, while you can try to find meaning within her journeys in and around town, as well as that in the lingering shots of fire fire burning bright, but I'd rather not bother. It's quite indulgent, and seriously the more disturbing aspect of it is the nagging feeling whether that fire was real, and in the name of filmmaking, whether it was really sacrificed for celluloid, working into the plot of having the girl wrack her brains at the ultimate sending of signals to her beau.

Gilbert Melki did provide some credible performance as the man caught between the stability of his life with his wife and child, and the opportunity of having a Lolita throw herself at him, with signals ranging from off the cuff visits at work, and suggestive phone messages. He struggles to find some sense in his dilemma, which shouldn't even beg the question to begin with, if he's resolute. Other than his character, the rest are quite one-dimensional, and personally I don't find any common ground, nor empathize with Livia in her strange pursuit, and very alienated character who seemed to be rather happy when alone riding her horse, a source of comfort and strength, soon forgotten when her father takes it away supposedly for championship training.

On Fire trots way too slowly for the sake of doing so, but if there's any merit in this movie, it's that it portrays and transmits the sense and feeling of boredom really well - you'll feel every minute of this overlong movie.

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