Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:26 pm 
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Memory Lane is the first feature of La Fémis Paris cinema school grad Mikhael Hers, a loose, unfocused film about seven twenty-somethings who return to their old middle class suburb to the southwest of Paris one summer and spend a few days together. The aimless result might be considered Éric Rohmer without the intelligent conversation. Though they like each other and have little else to do, it still takes the whole movie for fellow band members Vincent (Thibault Vinçon of Emmanuel Bourdieu's Poison Friends) and Christelle (Dounia Sichov) to get it on. Sisters Muriel (Lolita Chammah) and Céline (Stéphanie Dehel) must deal with the recent diagnosis of their father François (Didier Sandre), but his symptoms remain mild and he, like others, is available for nice meals and walks in the park. Raphaël (Thomas Blanchard, also in Bourdieu's film) has depression problems, but they don't seem serious enough to keep him from hiking around with the others toward summer's end.

Vinçon has a charming manner combined with a soulful look that has an edge of sadness around it -- qualities well used for his key role as the university students' con-man leader in Poison Friends. Alas, this is a mere walk-through for him that offers ample opportunity to show his pleasant side but nothing more. Vincent is only vaguely the central figure (and occasional narrator) and the subject is a young generation whose youth ends with the fading of summer, thus changing them all from who they were and dooming them never again to be a band of pals.

What has happened when the last reel spins out other than some discussions, some partying, some swimming, some sex, some outdoor meals, a few songs performed by the group (who sing in English)? Unlike Rohmer, Hers provides no amorous dilemmas to be resolved. He may deserve credit for naturalism since in everyday life very often nothing much happens. But a director with the magic touch can transform that nothing much into quite a lot, and that, here, doesn't happen. Like Rohmer, the director does have an attractive young cast, and the cinematography of Sébastian Buchmann keeps them bathed in warm, natural light.

Memory Lane opened in Paris November 24, 2010, receiving fair reviews (Allociné press rating 3.0) including favorable ones from respected sources (Le Monde, Libération, Les Inrocuptibles, Télérama, L'Humanité). Some French critics however found it "flat," "anecdotal," and "without flavor." Seen and reviewed as a part of the New Directors/New Films series presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA, March 23 through April 3, 2011.

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