Presque rien | Come Undone [2000]

Presque rien - Elkaïm & Rideau-036/10 | 25.Jan.13
Presque rien | Come Undone

DIRECTOR: Sébastien Lifshitz | WRITERS: Stéphane Bouquet, Sébastien Lifshitz | CAST: Jérémie Elkaïm, Stéphane Rideau, Dominique Reymond, Marie Matheron, Laetitia Legrix, Nils Ohlund | France

Mathieu (Jérémie Elkaïm), a middle class Parisian 19 year old, spends his summer vacation before university with his mother and sister and a family friend (aunt? cousin?) in a small beach town near Nantes. There he meets a local working class boy, Cédric (Stéphane Rideau), and the two embark on an intense affair, made more intense by the fact that this is Mathieu’s first and by the awareness that it probably won’t last past the summer. Presque rien - Elkaïm & Rideau-01Presque rien perfectly captures the texture of the relationship, but Sébastien Lifshitz tells this love story in the context of its ultimate failure and Mathieu’s suicide attempt and tentative recovery. The narrative is fractured, elliptical, and so elusive, in fact, that we’re ultimately not given enough information to understand what we’re seeing. Still, Lifshitz maintains beautiful control and the entire film is suffused with a sense of melancholy and almost inchoate yearning — which reminded me almost uncomfortably of my own teenaged self. Jérémie Elkaïm and Stéphane Rideau give such wonderfully natural performances that at times it felt like I was eavesdropping. Lots of full frontal nudity and simulated sex and that sort of thing, not that I ever notice.

A word to the morons who decided to give this movie the English title Come Undone: may you rot in hell! That’s a non-translation of the original title and it automatically made me think of The Guess Who’s “Undun” — a ginormous hit when I was in 8th grade — and it gave me an earworm that won’t quit. So just to be perverse I’m including here the Pierre et Gilles promotional photo because it likewise couldn’t possibly be more misleading about the tone of the movie.

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3 comments

  1. Haha, just left another comment about this one. I love this fractured, melancholic, brutally honest film. I don’t know why I took to it so strongly. It’s the complete opposite of the films I used to watch back then (like Beautiful Thing). It still resonates with me. Lifshitz captured something here that rarely translates to the screen, the beauty of first love and its transience.

    On the English title, what about that ridiculously misrepresentative Pierre et Gilles poster. Classic.

    1. Oh, yes, the Pierre et Gilles technicolor nudes with the starfish all over the place? Right, that’s exactly what I see in my head when I think of the movie. Anyway, this movie really reminded me of how I felt when I was a teenager, but I had some problems with it. I think maybe I’m being too harsh on it because it didn’t go where I wanted it to go. Or something. I didn’t see Presque rien when it came out — I didn’t see most of the coming out movies of the ’90s and early ’00s because I was just sick to death of the subject — but I wonder what I would have made of a movie like it when I was a teenager 25 years before Presque rien came out. I probably would have thought it was the best movie ever made just because there was nothing like it then — a movie like Presque rien would almost have been inconceivable back then.

  2. Tom Robinson · · Reply

    naked french boys are catnip to a boy like me so this movie drew me in although i never really understood what was happening when the boys were not naked.

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