Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2020 9:34 pm 
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You may not need an app to find love

Another queer-centric film that ends with a romantic bonding, like the Greek Palme d'Or winning short included in this collection. But this is rural and centered on a pig farmer, Mickaël (Gilles Vandeweerd), who's using Grindr or a more diagrammatic gay hookup app. It shows him maps with circles. "Mikka" - that's him - is in the center, and midway he actually locates a naked man waiting for him in the middle of a field of grain. The two circles then merge, like amoebas. This is an updated rural world with auto-drive tractors and smart phones. Mikka is one of "France’s New Rurals, a group of young, ambitious workers who are electing to stay or move back to the picturesque pastures of France’s countryside," says a Variety article about this film and its director.

And so beside the love-seeking there are complications, other things happening. Mikka's hog farm is examined and he anxiously awaits its certification as organic. Then by surprise along comes old friend Paul (Victor Fradet), a handsome and sexy guy who's been in New Zealand and now is back. There's a party where the disrespectful use of Mikka's pork sausages leads to a bagarre. The scenes have an edge of wackiness about them, a genial good-naturedness.

The off-centeredness of a queer film viewpoint has something in common with the well-known work of Alain Guiraudie (Stranger in the Lake, Staying Vertical) or Jérôme Reybaud's Grindr tour 4 Days in France, which is full of hookups but the sex isn't the main thing. The French seem to have something going on here. With all this context, Levéel has material for a feature film, but this short doesn't feel overstuffed.

This story follows the conventional theme of someone groping around vainly when the best prospect is right in front of him, but seems out of reach. Paul really is so attractive, also so confident, as well as charming and playful, that he may seem unattainable. A parallel theme that might seem comic is Paul and Mikka's search for the runaway alpha male prized breeding hog, who's called Roger.

This is a short film that slips by easily and seems casual and simple but has depths and rhymes we have to tease out. Marine Levéel, who has been on the crew for other people's shorts going back to 2012 and directs her own first short film here, signals herself as someone to watch.

Magnetic Harvest//La traction des pôles, 25 mins., debuted Jan. 2019 at Angers, here it won the audience prize, and it also played at the key short film festivals of Clermond-Ferrand and Palm Springs. Screened for this review as part of Kino Lorber Marquee's "New French Shorts" release.


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