Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2020 8:29 am 
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Religion troubles

In the orderly scheduling of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, a film titled "The Spellbound" is followed by one called "The Bewitched." I confess my French does not extend to the distinctions between envoûté and éblouis, and if you look up synonyms, they can be interchangeable. However that, the "envoûté" film, was about spirits and sex; this, the "ébloui" one, delves into religion and those led astray by a radical kind of Catholicism imported from the States in the Seventies called the "charismatic" movement. Its possible effect is dramatized by focusing on a family in rural Angoulême that gets involved in it. The filmmaker, whose feature debut this is, has freely confessed that she want through a similar experience in her early years.

There is a sharp conflict over the "community" they're incorporated into among the family members. Twelve-year-old Camille (Céleste Brnnquell), a promising acrobat, performs a sketch that treats prayer lightly. The leader of the church her family belongs to, known as Le Berger - The Shepherd, (Jean-Pierre Daroussin) asks Camille's parents to take her out of the circus training. Both mom (Camille Cottin of the Netflix series "Call My Agent!" aka "Dix pour cent") and dad (Éric Caravaca, of another Netflix French series, "Un village français" ) have recently come under The Shepard's sway; the mother seems to need it, and the husband seems to be a doormat. Camille and her younger brothers (Armand Rayaume, Jules Dhios Francisco) are unhappy and contstantly tempted to break away.

The sect, called Community of the Dove, has warm and happy collective elements, such as cooking shared meals, singing, dancing, playing soccer, and sharing a feeling of holiness. But there are also really weird and creepy and controlling cult aspects, exerted by The Shepherd, which pit Camille against the Community from the start and makes her try to keep her younger brothers free of its power, for which their parents become agents.

The last part of the film focuses on a scandal that isn't peculiar to this kind of Catholicism but an issue of the whole religion, and this may make for an exciting (if rather rushed) finale, it takes us away from the true focus. Suco seems to like emotional scenes to involve everybody shouting at the top of their lungs, which eliminates and subtlety. Nonetheless this is a film that's full of vibrant life and makes you think. The ensemble scenes are very well staged, and young Céleste Brnnquell has no trouble holding the screen throughout.

The Dazzled/Les éblouis, 99 mins., debuted at Angoulême; several other French fests. French release 20 Nov. 2019, AlloCine rating 3.7 (74%).

Sunday, March 8, 6:30pm (Q&A with Sarah Suco)
Friday, March 13, 4:15pm

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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