Driven by a poet
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.