Driven by a poet

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - David Strat­ton’s

Stranger than Par­adise Mys­tery Train sions, though each one adds to the rich­ness of the film. Mainly, Pater­son is con­tent to ex­plore the re­la­tion­ship between Pater­son and Laura, who are deeply, un­com­pli­cat­edly in love and in­cred­i­bly sweet and sup­port­ive of one an­other.

At one point Laura ex­claims: “This is so much fun! It’s like liv­ing in the 20th cen­tury”, and you can see what she means: po­ten­tial threats and dan­gers come to noth­ing, life seems sim­pler, and a strange man talk­ing to a lit­tle girl does not arouse sus­pi­cion. A trip to the movies isn’t to see some new block­buster: it takes them to a sparsely at­tended art-house cin­ema for the creepy Is­land of Lost Souls (1932), with Charles Laughton, which they ap­pear to thor­oughly en­joy. The film is as in­no­cent as it is gen­tle, and view­ing it is a truly sub­lime ex­pe­ri­ence. If the nar­ra­tive of Pater­son is tan­ta­lis­ingly slight, that of the French film Ros­alie Blum is quite the op­po­site; the first fea­ture from wri­ter­di­rec­tor Julien Rap­pe­neau, this in­trigu­ing and tan­ta­lis­ing — and plot-driven — ro­man­tic mys­tery-com­edy is based on a graphic novel by Camille Jourdy. Like Pater­son, the film is di­vided into chap­ters, but in­stead of days of the week Rap­pe­neau de­votes a chap­ter to each of his three main char­ac­ters.

First there is Vin­cent (Kyan Kho­jandi, who was born in France to Ira­nian par­ents, an­other link to Pater­son). A hair­dresser who lives in the same apart­ment build­ing as his dotty, de­mand­ing mother (Anemone) in a small town, he seems to lead a lonely ex­is­tence. He has a girl­friend, but she lives in Paris and when­ever he ar­ranges to see her she cancels at the last mo­ment. He suf­fers from nose­bleeds when he’s stressed and his only real com­pan­ion is his cat (this film’s equiv­a­lent to Marvin in Pater­son). Then, one Sun­day, his mother de­cides she must have crab and le­mon for a recipe she wants to make, and she sends a re­luc­tant Vin­cent off on his bi­cy­cle in search of th­ese in­gre­di­ents.

The usual stores are shut, and he winds up at a cor­ner shop some dis­tance away where he meets Ros­alie Blum (Noemie Lvovsky), the shop­keeper. She’s mid­dle-aged, a bit shabby in ap­pear­ance, cer­tainly not what you’d call sexy — but some­how some­thing clicks. Ex­actly what that “some­thing” is we aren’t told — and in fact we won’t know un­til the film’s fi­nal scene; but what­ever it is, it mys­te­ri­ously ob­sesses Vin­cent to the ex­tent that he starts stalk­ing her. He fol­lows her to her home, to a cin­ema (where she sees a Ja­panese film), and to a club, where they lis­ten to music.

Af­ter this very in­trigu­ing set up, Rap­pe­neau of­fers Chap­ter Two, named af­ter Aude (Alice Asaaz), Ros­alie’s niece, whom we glimpsed as one of the cus­tomers in the club. It seems Ros­alie has no­ticed she is be­ing fol­lowed and she asks Aude to fol­low the fol­lower, which Aude does with the en­thu­si­as­tic help of her two best friends (Sara Gi­raudeau, Camille Rutherford) and her ec­cen­tric room­mate (Philippe Reb­bot).

Now the events of Chap­ter One are re­played but this time from Aude’s per­spec­tive, when ev­ery­thing takes on a new — and quite com­i­cal

THE FILM IS AS IN­NO­CENT AS IT IS GEN­TLE, AND VIEW­ING IT IS A TRULY SUB­LIME EX­PE­RI­ENCE

— mean­ing. Part Three, Ros­alie, wraps up the story in a very sat­is­fac­tory way.

Rap­pe­neau’s de­ci­sion to con­ceal the ex­pla­na­tion for Vin­cent’s ob­ses­sive be­hav­iour to­wards Ros­alie un­til the bit­ter end — and in a flashback at that — is a bold one, and some may be an­noyed, rather than in­trigued, by the mys­tery. But the film quickly ex­erts a grip on you, mainly be­cause of the en­gag­ing per­for­mances. Kho­jandi is a con­vinc­ingly hang­dog hero, while Asaaz is a de­light­fully daffy Aude whose lazi­ness and ec­cen­tric lifestyle be­come quite en­dear­ing. Ros­alie is more of an enigma, but that’s as it should be.

Com­par­isons have been made with JeanPierre Je­unet’s Amelie (2001), but don’t be fooled; Ros­alie Blum has none of the fan­tasy el­e­ments of that mod­ern clas­sic. It’s firmly grounded in real­ity — even if the be­hav­iour of Aude and her friends is weird at times, it’s al­ways ba­si­cally be­liev­able. Read Best and Worst Movies of 2016 in Arts on Mon­day.

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