Dir. Jean-Marc Moutout. France/ Belgium.2008, 104 minutes.
Jean-Marc Moutout's The Feelings Factory (La Fabrique des sentiments) wants to be about life and love and all manner of profound things, but ends up as little more than a jumble of endless close-up reaction shots of French actress Elsa Zylberstein. Unfortunately, this lovely but usually supporting player doesn't have the screen presence or nuanced acting ability that the role demands, and she's not helped very much by unintentionally-ugly settings and an overly ambitious, but undeveloped and unfocused script.
Moutout's last, Work Hard Play Hard, was in official selection at Locarno, and similarly this could play out a few festivals but seems destined to remain France-bound.
Eloise (Zylberstein) is a 36-year-old up-and-coming Parisian real estate lawyer with two basic problems, namely, a love life that's less than ideal, given her desire for a family in the face of a ticking biological clock, and, more seriously, a potential brain tumour.
She deals with the first issue by attending a speed-dating session, which provides the central metaphoric and thematic nexus (the difficulty of finding true love) for the remainder of the film.
The second issue, which is over-emphasised by pummeling the audience with her innumerable dizzy spells, is taken care of by regular trips to a doctor who reassures her that she'll be fine. This in fact turns out to be perfectly true, creating in the process a rather oversized red herring that may leave some audience members feeling emotionally cheated.
Eloise swoons over handsome speed-dater Jean-Luc (Putzulu), but after a couple of romantic dinners and a love-making session that's none too convincing, he seems to disappear in search of greener pastures.
The bulk of the film's ersatz philosophising is supplied by a creepy potential stalker and rapist named Andre, the least attractive of the men Eloise meets while speed-dating. He's down on life and love, but occasionally offers a bon mot, in the cryptic manner of the dyspeptic French intellectual, that's worthy of more than a second's contemplation.
The incomplete portrait of Eloise's professional life seems a half-baked afterthought, just like an undeveloped single scene with her contentious family and a beloved grandmother we never hear about again. Both seem artificially tacked on merely to complicate the character's dilemmas.
Formally speaking, the off-putting decors on lengthy display and the even more annoying dream and fantasy sequences make for more than a few longueurs.
Nor do these fanciful bits sit very well within the basically realistic framework of the movie. Worse are the ugly zooms in the speed-dating sequences that are presumably meant to connote intensity, but don't succeed.
What feels like hundreds of tiny sequences in a variety of locations show a contemplative Eloise, a suffering Eloise, a frightened Eloise, and so on, yet are never very involving. An unwarranted, completely cynical ending that tries to pass itself off as profundity rings false as well.
Films du Losange, +18.104.22.168.87.24
Les Films du Losange, Need Productions, Elefilm, France 2 Cinema, RTBF
Margaret Menegoz, Regine Vial
Jean-Marc Moutout, Olivier Gorce, Agnes de Sacy
Jacques BonnaffeBruno Putzulu