Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:42 pm 
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Reviews coming soon: July Tales, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Jeannette, Childhood of Joan of Arc. Looking forward to: Custody, A Paris Education, A Memoir of War (La douleur). The latter based of course on Marguerite Duras' famous book.


And original debut with a wild girl, going blind

The expansive mini-biography by Guy Bellinger in IMDb tells us a lot about the young Léa Mysius, who showed promise and daring with short films when quite young in film school; this is her feature debut. Mysius was born in Bordeaux and grew up in the Médoc where this film takes place, in the summer, full of beach and outdoor scenes, as if focuses on a 13-year-old girl who learns that she will soon lose her eyesight, and she and her mother determine to enjoy life to the fullest while the sight lasts. Mysius left this region at 13 herself (a kind of loss of sight?) with her parents and finished high school on the island of Reunion, then returning to France. Her companion Paul Guilhaume is the cinematographer for this film, as for a previous short film.

Ava is better at striking incidents and atmosphere than storyline, and there are lags and lulls in the action, even when he young heroine runs off and connects with Juan (Juan Caro), who is a dark local outcast from his family, or clan. Is he Spanish, or a gypsy? There is a little of the Criminal Lovers vibe and I even thought of an old favorite of mine, Manual Pradal's beautiful, mythic 1997 Marie Baie des Anges . What happened to the loss of eyesight? It's just a starting point, seemingly, to give the teenager's coming-of-age story a more intense edge. But the way that element comes and goes is another instance that Mysius is not ace at the writing. But vivid scenes - like the Spanish outdoor wedding, ending in a rainstorm, while Ava poses as a temporary party hire to get his documents from his caravan and steal Juan's car for their, or his, escape - and saturated colors in 35mm. film throughout, make this a kind of sensual pleasure. And the black dog and the dark-skinned boy and the nudity and the beaches and the blinding night-time: atmosphere, image prevail, and satisfy.

There is always an edge to the personalities, not only the wild Ava, but her immature, promiscuous mother, and the mysterious Juan. The film injects a mythic quality also with the two police on horseback who keep coming after Juan, like fascist guardians. The music is fine. This is indeed a most promising debut.

Ava, 105 mins, debuted at Cannes May 2017 in Critics Week, and showed in 17 other festivals. It opened in France in May 2017 and got good reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.5). Télérama called it "a feast of the senses." Screened as part of the March 2018 New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, a joint production of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and UniFrance.
Walter Reade Theater
Sunday, March 11, 8:30pm
Friday, March 16, 9:15pm

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