Tuesday, January 25, 2011

MyFrenchFilmFestival.com--Frédéric Mermoud's COMPLICES is a keeper

Swiss filmmaker Frédéric Mermoud's second attempt at a full-length narrative (after a TV movie some years back) -- COMPLICES (aka Partners) begins with the shot of a corpse floating face-down in the water. When the police arrive -- including two of the four "partners" of the title -- and the body is made to lie face-up, we get our first real taste of Mermoud (shown below) as a filmmaker. We've seen plenty of corpses on film, most of them bloody, ugly, gory, horrific. This one is somehow different. Oh, it's awful, all right. But it -- he, for this is the body of a young man -- is most striking in the sadness the shot delivers. There is a strong sense of loss here, of waste, of a death that is more than untimely.

Little explanation is offered us verbally; it's all in the visuals. From the angle at which we're viewing the corpse to the well thought-out make-up that reveals something awful on the surface and yet something else underneath, and especially from the reactions to the young man's body from the characters surrounding it (see photo at bottom) -- this is not just another corpse. Mermoud's ability here is to make us look at death -- murder -- with something beyond mere voyeurism. He allows us to see it with a humanity that is rare in this particular genre.

Just as we, and the police, are taking it all in, the filmmaker suddenly cuts to the same young man, now alive: full of light and life, energy and charm. He's in an internet cafe where his gaze comes to rest upon a rather sweetly innocent-looking young girl, about the same time as her gaze finds him. They meet, and the movie is off and running with enormous zest. Yet it trails the sadness of what we have already seen.

We continue to bounce back and forth between past and present, between the older set of police partners and friends, beautifully played by those fine and oft-seen French actors Emmanuelle Devos (below, right) and Gilbert Melki (below, left) who are investigating the death, and our young lovers, played equally well by Cyril Descours (two photos above, from Paris je t'aime and the John Adams miniseries) and Nina Meurisse (shown just above).

Mermoud deals in opposites: before and after, past and present, life and death, parents and children, men and women, villains and heroes, gay and straight, sex as monetary transaction and sex as part of love. Instead of leaving these in opposition, he manages to quietly bring them together as much as possible. Again, a humane act -- because most of us live our lives in opposition and denial, trying to piece together so many parts that don't seem to fit. This is true of the murder itself, and while the unmasking of the perpetrator will not come as much of a surprise, this will not matter: The point is elsewhere. What will surprise you is how much empathy is evoked for all concerned, including the killer.

Complices is finally a beautiful film about things that are anything but. It seems a truthful one, too-- neither whitewashing nor making things harder than they would be. Yet its viewpoint is broad and deep enough to encompass a good-sized chunk of life. And death.

The film is available now through this Saturday, January 29 -- you can download it for only $2.63 --  via MyFrenchFilmFestival.com. Further good news: If you don't get the chance to watch Complices before its Saturday finale, IFC Films has picked it up, under the English title Accomplices,  for On-Demand release, beginning in April. You can find further information here.

Photos above are from the film itself, except that of M. Mermoud, 
taken by Magali Girardin, courtesy of Tribune de Genève.

No comments: