Combustible Celluloid
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With: Damien Bonnard, India Hair, Raphaël Thiéry, Christian Bouillette, Basile Meilleurat, Laure Calamy, Sébastien Novac
Written by: Alain Guiraudie
Directed by: Alain Guiraudie
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 98
Date: 03/03/2017

Staying Vertical (2017)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Wolf's Bane

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Alain Guiraudie's earlier work Stranger by the Lake was constantly intriguing, and his new film, Staying Vertical (or, Rester vertical), placed on the Cahiers du cinéma list of the ten best films of 2016, so of course I wanted to see it. Sadly, and surprisingly, it left me quite cold. It's a movie in which characters seem to be doing things, speaking to each other, but no one ever seems alive. It's more like empty, lifeless manipulation of puppets than it is anything emotional or engaging.

Leo (Damien Bonnard) seems to be a filmmaker; we see him writing a few lines of a script, but that's about all. He drives around in the country and becomes fascinated by a young man there. The young man rebuffs him and he keeps going. He meets a blond shepherdess, Marie (India Hair), and she seduces him. They have a baby, but she suffers from post-partem depression and he ends up caring for the baby himself. He occasionally sees another woman for some kind of weird therapy, and he occasionally calls a producer to ask for more money. Then he becomes involved with the ailing old man that lives with the young man from before.

The movie ends with a somewhat baffling, somewhat disturbing act of -- I think -- assisted suicide. But everyone is so constantly sullen and snappish that it's really hard to care. Stranger by the Lake had an innate sense of mystery and the patience to explore its individual moments, but this one just moves sluggishly along its rural landscape as if bored by all the dead weeds. But at least it has an ending, involving a pack of wolves, that left me smiling.

Note: Staying Vertical played in the Bay Area at the Roxie Cinema, but I'm afraid I was a bit late in posting this review.

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