Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Naissance des pieuvres
France, 2007. Balthazar Productions, Canal+, La Région Île-de-France, Arte / Cofinova 3, Centre National du Cinema et de L’Image Animee. Screenplay by Céline Sciamma. Cinematography by Crystel Fournier. Produced by Bénédicte Couvreur, Jerome Dopffer. Music by Jean-Baptiste de Laubier. Production Design by Gwendal Bescond. Costume Design by Marine Chauveau. Film Editing by Julien Lacheray. Toronto International Film Festival 2007.
Celine Sciamma’s feature directorial debut is, like many directorial debuts, an intimate coming of age tale, but don’t let that turn you away from her electrifying treatment of a familiar film tradition. Pauline Acquart is excellent as Marie, a young teen who works her way into the life of Floriane (Adèle Haenel), the star athlete of a local synchronized swimming team. At first she convinces herself it’s because she wants to swim too, though that delusion is quickly forgotten as she gradually comes to realize it’s Floriane herself that she’s fascinated by. The object of her affection is as mesmerized by her own powers over others as she is confused by Marie, whom she uses for her purposes but seems to have some genuine affection for, while Marie’s best friend Anne (Louise Blachère) is unhappy to have her friend pulling away from her while enduring her own boy troubles. Poignant observations of adolescents trying to assemble their social skills are combined with Sciamma’s razor-sharp eye for visual details, getting a great deal of exotic imagery out of Floriane’s swim team to play against the otherwise drab suburban background.