Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2022 5:25 pm 
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This melodrama is a showcase of editing tricks

SPOILER ALERT: From the review by Marin Gérard in Criticat (translated from the French): "From the outset, the film takes the form of a sometimes incomprehensible whirlwind of more or less connected vignettes, but it really comes into its own when, after about forty minutes, we learn what it is all about: an impossible mourning."

Matthieu Amalric still will always be primarily remembered as an actor both in American blockbusters and in art films by Arnaud Desplechin, but with a lot of short films under his belt, he's also assembled some admirable and celebrated outings as a director, including On Tour , which won him the Best Actor award at Cannes, and the beautiful,, dreamy homage to a French songstress, Barbara. Hold Me Tight, surprisingly, since it's so cinematic, adapted by Amalric himself from a play (Je reviens de loin by Claudine Galea), stars the actress Vicky Krieps, who came to notice with Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread and seems to be the It Girl of late, having featured in Mia Hansen-Love's much-admired Bergman Island also last year. She has the perfect blend here, it would seem, of fire and ice. Clarice, her character lost and wracked with stifled emotional pain, running away from her life, but protesting it was not she who fled.

What is she talking about? Well, the "impossible mourning" mentioned above. One can love this film and yet find its central emotions leave one unmoved. This I think is because of two things. The subtlety of the puzzle-composition of those "more or less connected vignettes," which include past, present, and imagined, only temporarily masks a conventional weepy melodrama. Second, the emotion fades because the film is not so much in love with Clarisse, her family, and her grief as with its own facile artistry, its beautiful score, the complexity of its editing, the interweaving of threads, the overlay of voices.

Marc (Belgian actor Arieh Worthalter), Clarisse's husband, works in a factory, but mostly is at home, where his wife and his son Paul (Sacha Ardilly), who as a teenager ( Aurèle Grzesik) savors his dad's new tattoos, and has him sketch one on him; the camera and Clarisse admire his hairy chest. Paul is a regular boy, who gets a tree house approached by pulley. His older sister Lucie (Anne-Sophie Bowen-Chatet; later Juliette Benveniste) is another story, a talented pianist, whose ambitions form a central thread of the interwoven "whirlwind" of "more or less connected vignettes."

The only other central character is the family's late-70's maroon station wagon, flowing through many scenes and never aging - which gets its moment, appropriately at an imposing station wagon, its pumps spaced wide apart, where another customer admires it. "What about me?" says Clarisse. "What am I, a stuffed tomato?" "Cars are just my thing," the innocent fellow protests.

It appears the girls are doing at least a good deal of their own piano playing. Somewhere at some point on TV there appears by chance a film about Martha Argerich, surely the most important woman pianist and a force of nature and worthy inspiration for any girl with talented fingers. Does Lucie flaunt a mop of grey-dyed hair later in homage? Are there rapid teasing references about mothers and daughters of pianist blending Martha and Clarisse? This film, complex and cerebral to a fault, is in love with its own cleverness. It is glamorous and sexy about tragedy, as movies can be. One can enjoy its initially quite incomprehensible flow, and identify a tiny bit with Vicky Krieps, but then one may find the cleverness has buried the people, events, and emotion that have turned into the filmmakers' playthings.

Hold Me Tight/Serre moi fort, 97 mins., debuted in the Premières section at Cannes Jul. 21, 2021 and was included in a half dozen important international festivals, Jerusalem, Brussels, Hamburg, Busan, Vienna, and Rotterdam. Screened for this review as part of the Mar. 2022 UniFrance-FLC Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. Its French theatrical release Sept. 8, 2021 led to a generally favorable reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.8, 76%).

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