Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2022 6:44 am 
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Amalric has made a wonderful puzzle picture with much formal complexity but little emotional heft

A young boy in a costume throws himself into a bubble bath. lifted from the water by his father he yells, "You broke mom! You threw mom away! You threw away her perfumes!" This is the first strong emotional moment that stands out in a sequence of rather disjointed moments. They are beginning to fall together - about time, 26 minutes. A pale young woman (Vicky Krieps) has abandoned her family, driven away, perhaps to Luxembourg. She has emotional problems. She drinks.

As Clarisse seems to start a new life on the coast, Hold Me Tight cuts back to her her husband Marc (Arieh Worthalter), daughter Lucie (Juliette Benveniste/Anne-Sophie Bowen-Chatet) and son Paul (Aurele Grzesik/Sacha Ardilly). Lucie plays the piano and Paul plays in the yard, adjusting to life without their mother. Or are they? The girl is a talented pianist, and we hear a lot of her. (Diegetically, this film is interesting.) What does "talent" mean? Inevitably, Martha Argerich is glimpsed. Is Lucie destined to be a Martha Argerich, or will she more likely be an accompanist at a school? Or not make it to the conservatory?

The unfolding drama is hiding the explanation of what has actually happened for later, to be unveiled as a surprise. You may guess what it is - or a glimpsed pull quote may have fed you too strong a prior hint. Such as: "Presented out of official competition at the last Cannes Festival, Hold Me Tight is a portrait of a woman haunted by lost loved ones."

No matter: Amalric himself has revealed the secret in interviews. (He seems to love too much these unemotional puzzle pieces--see his The Blue Room.) This is all about the lead performance of the much admired Vicky Krieps. It's a very busily dramatic role. You may like it. Me, personally, I prefer Jane Austen. Though the cinematography, acting, editing, and other tech aspects of Hold Me Tight are impeccable, this is an actor's film; Amalric can't help being who he is. It all seems a bit show-off-y, and the revelation, a bit gimmicky. This is a prize-winner for its editing. But it's an editing that mixes time and space, flashback and dream. Isn't that what an editor likes to do? This film must have been a lot of fun to make; it would be fun to take it apart and analyze it. But sometimes techniques are best used when they don't show. Sometimes emotions are best examined straightforwardly.

This film is formally interesting, and keeps you on your toes following it. Krieps is busy with her acting in every scene. But this film hardly ever gets directly into the emotions it's ostensibly about. It's all over-thought, self conscious and pretentious, and worse yet, it's just a collection of movable parts. You could insert a couple of new ones and make a different movie. Despite its sensitivity and its specificity, it is sufficiently generic so that I could watch it six months later and find it only dimly familiar. My first review was more detailed and enthusiastic.

Hold Me Tight/Serre Moi Fort, 97 mins., debuted at Cannes out of competition Jul. 14, 2021 and showed at a number of other international film festivals including Jerusalem, Brussels, Hamburg, Busan, Vienna, Rotterdam, and the Rendez=Vous with French Cinema (where I reviewed it before). On AlloCiné the press rating is 3.8 and the spectator rating 3.2. Critics like it better than viewers, for sure. Now released by Kino Lorber in the US starting Sept. 9, 2022 (Sept. 16 in the San Francisco Bay area).

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