Dir: Thierry Jousse.France 2005. 85mins.
Sound, vision and obsession mix to stylish, provocativeeffect in Invisible, the debut film from former Cahiers Du Cinema editorThierry Jousse. The latest in a long line of that magazine's critics to turn todirecting, stretching from the nouvelle vague generation to the likes ofOlivier Assayas and Pascal Bonitzer, Jousse brings an intelligent and informedcritical vision to a story about the way that sensory impressions affect ourimaginations and our lives.
Not that Invisible isa 'critic's film', much less a theoretical one. In fact, an adventurousdistributor could probably market it successfully as an upmarket eroticthriller, and its electronic soundtrack - including contributions from Bjorkcollaborators Matmos - should give it an additional extra hip cachet forfestival audiences. The film opens in France on June 15 after playing inCritics' Week at Cannes.
DVD could be trickier, giventhat key scenes unfold in not-quite but almost total darkness, which would seemto call for good-quality theatrical projection.
Bruno (Lucas) is anelectronic musician hoping to get a recording contract, together with hiscollaborator Noel (experimental guitarist Akchote, who himself contributes tothe soundtrack). At a meeting with music executive Carole (Lio), Bruno nearlywrecks their chances with his abrasive manner. The perfectionist is, in fact,obsessed with his own sound projects, which involve using microphones toeavesdrop on neighbours and mixing voices from a sex chatline into a sort ofmusique concrete.
It's on the chatline that heencounters Lisa (Abascal), a young woman whose sexy voice he falls for.Initially she agrees to meet him for sex in the dark, but when she disappears,Bruno goes on her trail, aided by his apartment's new caretaker (Lonsdale), ajazz lover with mysterious connections.
Not usually for acritic-turned-director, Invisible is crammed with homages, Bruno's activitiespointing us in the direction of, variously, Rear Window, TheConversation and Brian de Palma's Blow-Out. However, the filmartfully treads a fine line between Hitchcockian mystery and a reality-basedpicture of artistic obsession, with Bruno's activities making him very much apainter in sound.
Jousse's collaborators -musicians and sound designers alike - make Invisible a complex and troublingsensory experience that uses far more of the sound spectrum than mostfilm-makers normally bother with.
Tantalisingly - though someviewers may find this a frustrating turn-off - Invisible finally leavesus unsure how much of the story is Bruno's fantasy. Is Lisa a real person, or adream creation that this neurotic loner is concocting for himself'
Suggestive as this theme is,however, the film slightly loses its sense of direction in the last half-hour,a mysterious all-knowing denizen of the night, the silk-suited 'Mr William',sends Bruno off to investigate a swingers' club, where an orgy is in session.At this point, the film is straying awkwardly into David Lynch territory, whereit doesn't really seem to belong.
Jousse benefits from astrong cast: a sly, playfully Lonsdale, sly and playfully and a touch menacing;Abascal in a part more heard spoken than seen, and Lio, charismaticallyhard-boiled.
As ever, the near-ubiquitousLaurent Lucas is compellingly disturbed and frazzled as a man wrapped up in hisown thorny mentality. Lucas fans will note that - as in this year's Cannescompetition opener Lemmings and last year's Critics Week hit Calvaire- his character once again takes a brutal beating. Perhaps that's something heneeds to talk to his agent about.
Les Productions Bagheera
Pierre Grise Distrubution