Dir: Jerome Bonnell. Fr.2005. 87mins.
At just under anhour-and-a-half, Pale Eyes is exactly the right length for its intimate,austere story. Though sometimes too deliberately paced, this modest filmimpresses as it tries to get inside the head of a lovely but anguished youngwoman, thereby arriving at a sort of minimalist grace. It also captures a pieceof modern, small-town French life as well as the ambiguous searching of itsemotionally-pained individual.
Pale Eyes can expect to have a modest run at arthouse cinemas(it opened in France on Apr 27) but its minimalism and unhurried pace demandscritical support to stand out from the crowd. For cinemagoers engaged by Fannyand her story, however, it will be largely rewarding.
Fanny (Nathalie Boutefeu), arather sad but passionate young woman, lives in an old house with herprotective brother and his wife. From the start it's clear that she needs herown space. Eventually, Fanny, with a vague history of mental health problems,reacts with violent outbursts due to some unnamed psychological wound and setsoff alone to find her father's grave in Germany.
As with the 2002 film, MorvernCallar, another portrait of an emotionally wounded woman living in her ownworld and whose mysterious choices we attempt to understand, Pale Eyeschooses to be vague about the torment of its main character. This gives it agreater resonance than were it to tritely spell everything out.
It wouldn't be entirelyunfair to argue that Pale Eyes' second section is bit of a cop-out; afterall, the narrative threads weaved to that point are essentially abandoned andnot directly addressed again.
This may not matter howeverwith the turning point that comes in the last third of the film, as Bonnellintriguingly shifts gears and Pale Eyes becomes a different story intone and form. When Fanny meets Oskar (Rudolph), a German man, outside hisisolated wood cabin, all of the complications and troubles of the first part ofthe film fall away as her story is stripped down to something extra-lingual. Itbecomes the simplest of stories, of two people using body language andintuition to connect to each other despite the language barrier.
Despite the wistfulness thathangs over Pale Eyes, it is not without a charming, awkward humourreminiscent of Buster Keaton. Throughout, Bonnell uses images and moments thatrecall the silent film star and his antics.
All the actors areexcellent, with the talented Boutefeu (Irma Vep, Kings And Queen)creating a complex, seemingly bipolar young lady, a realistic portrait ofsomeone trying to find peace, yet with anguish always below the surface.
Likewise, Marc Ricci gives asubtle, unshowy performance as a man who tries to care for everyone around himwhile hiding his own unhappiness. Lars Rudolph (Run Lola Run), lookinglike a surfer-cum-lumberjack, communicates a strong and memorable charactereffectively despite being essentially mute. Similarly, the soundtrack is mostlyabsent of music, save for the classical piano playing by characters in thefilm.
Prod cos: Theus Prods, France 2 Cinema
Int'l sales: EuropaCorp
Fr dist: EuropaCorp
Exec prod : Bernard Bouix
Prod: Rene Cleitman
Cine: Pascal Lagriffoul
Ed: Fabrice Rouaud
Prod des: Anne Bachala
Main cast: Nathalie Boutefeu,Lars Rudolph, Marc Citti, Judith Remy