Saturday, November 5, 2016

Movie Review: 32 AOUT SUR TERRE (AUGUST 32nd ON EARTH)

Welcome to this mini-series of reviews of the feature films* of revered filmmaker Denis Villeneuve in the lead-up to his latest film Arrival. This first review in the series is for Villeneuve’s debut feature film Un 32 août sur terre (August 32nd on Earth).

Un 32 août sur terre (August 32nd on Earth) came out in 1998 is directed by Denis Villeneuve and stars Pascale Bussières and Alexis Martin. The film follows the story of Bussières’ character Simone as she gets in a car accident at the start of the film and proceeds to make brash decisions wanting a friend with some romantic interest in her (despite dating someone else) to impregnate her. The two travel to the desert to do this on account of the man, Phillippe (Martin), conditioning the impregnation on doing so in the desert.

As strange as the premise of this film sounds, the film is almost equally strange. The setup is strange and with how thin this film is in terms of back story and information you are thrown into a situation you can neither fully appreciate nor relate to in really any way. There is the occasional expositional line or brief appearance by another character that adds layers to our leads, but the limited use of them and, moreover, the immense use of solitariness leaves you feeling unattached to what was going on. It also introduces certain story threads that don’t end up going anywhere which was frustrating as a viewer.

Despite the story issues in this film, and the amount I couldn’t connect to it, there is a lot of good stuff in this film that shows off the promise that Villeneuve would show later. For starters, this film is beautifully shot. There are some particularly stunning scenes in the desert that were very striking. He also moves the camera really creatively through scenes and there is one in particular in an apartment that would normally feel like pretty mundane situation that is elevated wildly by the cool way we explore it visually.

The film is also not lacking from its lead actors. Neither are Oscar-worthy by any stretch, but both are highly competent and their chemistry on screen is palpable and the gentle comedy and intrigue of the relationship between the two of them gave the film something appealing to connect to.

Overall, I was not a fan of this film but I do think it has some redeeming characteristics. This feels like a first film from a great filmmaker but that doesn’t make it any less a first film. Villenueve shows promise but the serious story weaknesses make this film very much a history piece than a great film in this great director’s filmography. Worth checking out if you’re interested in Villeneuve’s library though.

Ryan’s Score: 5/10

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* This series of reviews will include all of Villenueve’s features except the 2000 film Malestrom due to it being highly difficult to obtain prior to the start of this series.

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