Dir/scr: Angela Shanelec. Germany-France. 2010. 84mins.
Germany’s Angela Shanelec returns to France for Orly, a series of barely connected encounters shot at peak traffic hours in Paris’ Orly airport. Her fans will appreciate the work’s precision and visual approach, while her numerous detractors are bound to point to Orly’s dramatic shortcomings. They both may have a point but what’s certain is that, like Shanelec’s previous work (Marseille, Afternoon), Orly is looking at a future niche art house distribution and festival sidebars.
Director Angela Shanelec keeps her distance from the characters and this cool approach might turn off some viewers
Vincent (Todeschini) is about to leave for San Francisco but has decided to return to Paris. He meets Juliette (Regnier), on her way back to Montreal after visiting her mother. A mother (Perrier) and her teenage son (Berling) are on their way to attend the funeral of his father, her ex-husband. A very young German couple (Zett, Falkner) are about to take their first trip away together, while Sabine (Eggert) reads a letter from Theo (de Pauw), the dying man she has just left.
Each of these four vignettes is kept separate from the others, and although it appears as if there may be connections between them, these do not lead anywhere. This best resembles a set of chance encounters, ending arbitrarily at some point - as they are bound to end in such situations -recorded by an impartial observer in an international airport. Whether it is Orly or any other major airport doesn’t really matter, the mood is the same in them all - a transitory no-man’s-land through which people pass before they board their own flights.
Each one of the encounters has its own particular tone. Vincent and Juliette do not know each other and most likely will never meet again. The mother and son are naturally intimate. The young Germans are not really a couple yet, while Sabine and Theo have long since stopped being one.
In all four instances, there is no actual plot development. Shanelec keeps her distance on purpose, never trying to overstep her position as an accidental eavesdropper or invest any of the characters with more depth than such circumstances would warrant. Theoretically admirable, this attitude also keeps the audience at arm’s length, leading to a cool approach that many viewers might not appreciate.
Shot by Reinhold Vorschneider’s camera in long, leisurely and carefully framed takes, Shanelec’s direction allows plenty of space for her cast. Regnier, Todeschini and Perrier are all remarkably natural, supported by Shanelec veterans Eggert and Zett.
They all deliver their lines as if they were improvised, but just when you get close to these people and want to know more, they head off to their destinations, leaving the viewer with no catharsis to return home with.
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La Vie est Belle
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Lina Phyllis Falkner
Josse de Pauw