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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.20.11] review drama

Year: 2011
Director: Nicolas Klotz, Elisabeth Perceva
Writers: Nicolas Klotz, Elisabeth Perceva
IMDB: link
Trailer: NA
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 4.5 out of 10

On paper, Nicolas Klotz and Elisabeth Perceval's most recent collaboration sounds like an unmissable drama. A tale of youthful wants, passions and broken hearts Low Life appeared to have all the trappings of a must see film. Even the its opening sequences promised some interesting things to come but as the story evolves to tell of Camille's tragic romance, it also falls into a trap of pretention.

Camille lives with and spends her time with a group of apparently well to do students, apparently since they share a pretty nice flat, have some pretty nice clothing, smoke, carry toys and yet none of them are shown to work. They worry about love, philosophy poetry and dabble in politics. The current issue: the police brutality against squatters, most of them illegal immigrants hiding in the dilapidated buildings of Lyon.

During a protest, Carmen meets and almost immediately falls into an intense love affair with Hussain, an Afghani poet. The two spends hours talking, mostly in poetic lyric, gazing into each other's eyes, making love and spending every waking (and sleeping) moment together. As Hussain's situation worsens and it becomes apparent that he'll be deported if discovered, Carmen searches for a solution, even looking into the option of marriage, before falling into a depression that eventually ends with her being consoled by her former lover, the quasi-suicidal Charles.

Throughout the story we meet a few of the people that travel in Carmen's group and they all seem to share the same artistic incline, spending hours on end smoking and waxing poetic on writers, philosophy and sex. It was like those bad dorm parties in first year university where everyone stands around wearing black, smoking and trying to outdo each other by quoting passages they only half understand. It was vaguely interesting to begin with but when they're still at it 40 minutes into the movie, I started to wonder if anything else was going to happen.

The answer is no. Low Life moves along at a snail's pace with characters talking around in circles but never actually doing anything. It's frustrating and the holier-than-thow attitude starts to wear thin. There are a few saving graces: Hélène Louvart's beautifully gloomy cinematography that interestingly enough, occasionally feels like the story is taking place on a stage, Camille Rutherford who is wonderful to watch - for a little while at least, and Luc Chessel as the fatalistic Charles. He disappears for most of the story but I found Chessel has a natural magnetism that makes him hard to ignore. It's a shame he wasn't used to greater effect.

Though Low Life showed promise in its opening scenes, I found the film dragged with little of interest to say. The film, like the characters in it, is pretentious and generally uninteresting and the waif of story isn't enough to sustain the film's running time. I love a good dialogue-heavy movie where people talk and explore ideas but there needs to be a way in for the audience and none of the characters in Low Life were magnetic enough to draw me in. A hugely disappointing venture.

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