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 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.