Baden Baden

 

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An individual debut but one that fails to engage for long.

 
baden baden

 

Initially, this Belgian/French co-production seems set to be an appealing work from a new director. It has a very individual central figure in the 26-year-old Ana played by Salomé Richard and that is an encouraging start. Far from being the conventional good looking heroine of cinema, Ana is a woman who doesn't play to her appearance and is not without a touch of androgyny. After a rather unhappy experience driving for a foreign film unit, she returns to her home-town of Strasbourg where her tender relationship with her aged, ailing but purposeful grandmother (Claude Gensac) is the most central feature in her life. This fact leads her to undertake work in her grandmother's apartment - the replacement of a bath with a more suitable shower. At different times two men aid her in this work - Grégoire (Lazare Gousseau) and Amir (Driss Ramdi) - but emotionally the men who count are her semi-ex (Swann Artaud) and Boris (Olivier Chantreau). She had broken off with Boris but now, to the dismay of her mother (Zabou Breitman), she is keen to return to him.

 

Despite touches of stylisation which never seem to belong, Baden Baden is interested in portraying everyday life as experienced by a woman and thus the film may be said to pivot around the work in the bathroom observed in a slightly comic way at intervals. This approach and the fact that the prime focus is not on the male characters helps to give this film an individual flavour. But what seems promising peters out due to the fact that as writer/director Rachel Lang fails to build on Ana's initial appeal and tells her story almost indirectly and rather vaguely. Consequently her indecisive meanderings presented without penetrative insight cause us to care less and less about Ana and her fate as the film proceeds. The Strasbourg locations go for nothing and this debut suggests that storytelling is not Lang's strong point (possibly she is too close to her characters to see how to present them more engagingly). It's disappointing because Richard is well cast and early on the film does seem to have a voice of its own. However, these virtues only add to our ultimate sense of disappointment.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Salomé Richard, Claude Gensac, Lazare Gousseau, Swann Arlaud, Olivier Chantreau, Thomas Silberstein, Jorjin Vriesendorp, Noémie Rosset, Driss Ramdi, Zabou Breitman, Kris Portoer de Bellair.

 

Dir Rachel Lang, Pro Jérémy Forni, Pierre-Louis Cassou, Joseph Rouschop and Valérie Bournonville, Screenplay Rachel Lang, Ph Fiona Braillon, Art Dir Jean-François Sturm, Ed Sophie Vercruysse, Costumes Sandra Campisi.

 

Chevaldeuxtrois/Tarantula/RTBF (Télévision Belge)/Proximus-MUBI.
95 mins. France/Belgium. 2016. Rel: 23 September 2016. Cert. 15.