Review: L’autre (San Diego International Film Festival 2020)

Title: L’autre (The Other)
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Marie Bissell
Starring: Astrid Berges-Frisbey, James Thierre, Anouk Grinberg
Runtime: 1 hr 17 mins

What It Is: In a time in which she finds herself split between events of loss in her life, Marie (Berges-Frisbey), a former dancer, explores the moments that lead her state of displacement, either doomed to be trapped within grief or freed from from it all together.

What We Think: We often find ourselves in these strange liminal stages in our lives and often it leads to terror–at least it does for me. Captured here is that state of being in a gracefully articulated concurrence. As gracefully presented as it is, this does very much feel like a dance film… though irritatingly and also to the film’s credit in maintaining a spiritual canonicity is devoid of any dancing at all. Personally I’m a big fan of dance movies or concerts that evoke an emotional depth like this. This film follows suit as it comes from the voice of someone who is explicitly artist. You feel an emptiness, a void just as the lead does after the passing of her father and loss of her love over an art. It’s a quiet film full of turmoil and confusion as we see her drift between different selves, jumping out of chronology and instead floats from beat to beat as she mulls the end of an emotional era. Though at first a bit tricky to read as to whether this blissfully short film intends a state of horror or a state of ponder, it gets easier to understand as we go along, akin much to works like Russian Ark in its natural and selfish flow of occurrences. This is something you’d easily see on PBS, perhaps featured on Great Performances…

Overall, though repetitive, it’s a lovely film that nurtures a space to be darkly reflective within. The sense of pain, loneliness, disorientation, and emptiness above all else washes over you. The way the camera respects its performers are how a painter would compose their subjects within frame or how a viewer would take in a dancer. There’s an incredible respect for their existence within space–and what godly spaces there are as we drift next to heavy cliff-sides to loud clicking steps through old buildings to wading through the streets of France. The environments were also treated very much like paintings, moments and movements expressive like works of Monet, tracking shots smooth while edits strangely fast and harsh, very much insinuating the cutting through time yet allowance for haunting within these few pretty spaces. It is clear this film was treated in great respect to the trades of high art as an outlet in order to tell the unfolding emotional layers.

Our Grade: B-, Gorgeous and fragmented, a brief and collective struggle to find meaning in change and loss. There’s a lot of love to behold as a result of the very personal contributions on behalf of the cast and filmmakers. Regardless, there is also much to be said about the story and its repetitious nature as well as its indulgently-used score and redundant leitmotifs / soft stingers that hardly indicate much other than what we can already understand just by watching the characters’ faces and exchanges. These lead to many a dead end or dull hiccup. I would love to see improvement on such things as I look forward to any future projects from the artists.

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Chai Simone Written by: