I attended with my friend M., on Monday July 1st, the annual rerun of the Semaine de la Critique – Cannes 2013 in Beirut.
This event will be held from the 1st to the 11th of July at Metropolis Empire Sofil in Ashrafieh.
10 feature films and 11 shorts, which were presented during the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, will be screened during this rerun in Beirut.
The event started by a short icelandic movie (15mn) « Vikingar » that took us back to year 1000, in the times of fearless Viking warriors.
Then it was followed by the opening film “Suzanne”
The film commences in the later 1980s with the story with Nicolas (François Damiens), a trucker living with his two little girls in working-class southern France. His wife Irene died a couple of years before, in her 30s, leaving him to raise his kids, Maria and Suzanne, alone. It’s obvious this labor perplexes him a bit.
The opening movement introduces the motif of the family visit to Irene’s grave, Nicolas’ smouldering grief and his intimate rapport with his daughters. One evening, a daughter plays back a woman’s phone message to him. The voice’s amorous desire is obvious, if unspoken. Nicolas stares at the machine, his face a mask of regret.
The story flashes forward to the girls’ adolescence. Suzanne (Sara Forestier) is now in high school, while Maria (Adèle Haenel) lives in Marseille. (The two sisters’ ages are ill defined. Haenel is several years younger than Forestier but, because Haenel and the child actor playing her younger self are both taller than the ones portraying Suzanne, Maria seems older.)
Maria comes into town for a visit, then goes again. A short time later Suzanne’s teacher informs Nicolas that his daughter is pregnant. There is no discussion of who the father might be – a few young men literally walk through one scene while Maria is visiting but the girls seem more interested in tomboyish teasing than intercourse.
Back home, Nicolas demands to know why Suzanne wants to keep the baby. “Because I feel like it,” she replies. Her father’s answer is to slap her energetically on the face, which compels her to go set the supper table.
By the time Quillévéré provides male characters to compete with Nicolas, Suzanne’s pregnancy has become a fully formed little boy named Charlie. Mother and daughter still live with dad and she works at the same company as him as well.
The boys appear during one of Maria’s visits. One of them, Vince, becomes Maria’s casual boyfriend. The other, a pouty Marseillais named Julien (Paul Hamy), takes a shine to Suzanne. The feeling is mutual, and Suzanne soon decides to abandon her job and move to Marseille to be with him.
Julien’s entirely too good-looking and devil-may-care to be anything but bad news, of course. The balance of the plot concerns itself with where Suzanne’s adventures with him lead.
At first the story is told from the perspective of the people Suzanne leaves behind. When she reappears, in dire straits and without Julien, the camera is drawn back to her, following Suzanne as she veers from one choice to the next.
The film’s ample emotion doesn’t rest in the writing, however. Rather it bleeds through in the authenticity of the acting, which (like the writing) errs on the side of understatement.
Where Charlie came from is less relevant to the story than his importance to Suzanne and her struggles to reconcile that with her other compelling needs. In its aesthetic and narrative, “Suzanne” reflects the narrowed horizons and lowered expectations of the characters who inhabit it.
By the time Suzanne’s story pauses long enough to allow the closing credits to run, her immediate family has expanded. It’s also contracted. Some have died along the way. She no longer has the liberty that she did, but she is alive and able to smile.
That’s the happiest end we can reasonably expect nowadays.
All screenings will be at 8:00 PM in Metropolis Empire Sofil, Achrafieh, except for “3X3D” that will be held in Cinemacity, City Mall, Dora.
You can check all the program of the event here.