Le Parc

 

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A second feature from a French filmmaker that will not appeal to all.

 
Le Parc

  

Damien Manivel, who created this film with Isabel Pagliai, was born in Brest in 1981 and is regarded as a promising newcomer, this being his second feature following a number of short films. Judging by this work, he is a minimalist, but that is not the whole story because despite lasting only 71 minutes Le Parc is a film of two halves both essentially two-handers yet very different in character from each other.

 

The first half reminds one of Richard Linklater's splendid Before Sunrise (1995) since it traces an encounter involving two people over a few hours. Though Linklater's characters met in Vienna and our duo, Maxime (Maxime Bachellerie) and Naomie (Naomie Vogt-Rody), walk around a French park with woodlands adjoining, the key difference lies in the characterisations. The couple in Before Sunrise were intelligent adults who, meeting by chance, had much to say whereas Manivel seems interested in portraying students who are much less articulate and who are walking and talking hesitantly on a first date.

 

The fact that these two are so ordinary could encourage identification on the part of young viewers but knowing so little about them as individuals proves unhelpful. Manivel's observation of the setting is well judged but there seems little chemistry between the players. Indeed, halfway through the film we start to wonder if, despite his reticent approach, Maxime is on the make rather than truly serious while, in contrast, Naomie's response to this first date suggests deep feelings that hardly seem justified.

 

In any case dusk falls and the girl remains alone in the park which at this point arguably takes on a symbolical quality expressive of her fears. The film's nocturnal second half is the stuff of dreams or, indeed, of nightmare as she walks backwards (itself perhaps a symbol of her desire to turn back time). She is seen and followed by a park guard (Sobere Sessouma) who initially seems kindly but may be as untrustworthy as Maxime now appears to be. All of this may sound intriguing, but given the slow pace, the changing tone of the film and the absence of the details that would make it feel compellingly real, I found Le Parc a wholly frustrating watch.  I am not an admirer of that famed avant-garde filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul and this film's second half did very much remind me of his work. So it may well be a matter of taste and anyone who reveres the Thai filmmaker should seek out Le Parc and assess it for themselves. But any appeal they may find in it will be of a specialised nature and this film's individuality is of a kind that many will find hard to take.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Naomie Vogt-Roby, Maxime Bachellerie, Sobere Sessouma.

 

Dir Damien Manivel, Pro Damien Manivel and Thomas Ordonneau, Screenplay Damien Manivel and Isabel Pagliai, Ph Pagliai, Ed William Laboury, Music Julie RouĂ©.

 

MLD Films/Shellac Sud/Cine+-MUBI.
71 mins. France. 2016. Rel: 10 February 2017. No Cert.