Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 5:00 pm 
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Nubile young women wandering in search of . . . something

Virgil Vernier works with interesting documentary elements and exceptional access to intimate situations to put together a sketchy fiction that ultimately does not cohere in Mercuriales, a film that starts out with a big twin tower high-rise apartment building in the Parisian suburb of Bagnolet, and fans out from there to a sex club, a mall, employment-hunting by several nubile young women, Eastern Europe and a romance that grows out of working as receptionists at the high-rise.

Vernier's venture into feature length is enhanced by beautifully processed 16mm images by cinematographer Jordane Chouzenoux and an original electronic score by James Ferraro. Vernier claims to have taken a cue from Godard’s 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967). But that was a long time ago and times have changed, and these soulless, aimless young women looking for jobs, status, and a purpose in life but showing no signs of finding them are little like the youth discovering a wealth of new possibility in the Sixies. This is a festival film for those who will find something in it. Potentially rich material fails to cohere. A disappointment, and Vernier's male fascination with nubile female bodies, even a young girl's, verges on the voyeuristic and exploitative, the more so in view of the failure to generate a meaningful narrative context.

Mercuriales, 100 mins., was screened for this review as part of the 2015 New Directors/New Films series, jointly sponsored by the FSLC and MoMA, shown Thursday, March 26, 2015, 6:15 p.m. (Released 26 Nov. 2014 in France, the critical response was much warmer than mine: AlloCiné press rating 3.8.)

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