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After his gay cousin dies from hepatitis, young Laurent, who lives with his best friend Carole, falls in love with Cedric, a plant scientist. He's afraid to inform his conservative parents that he is gay.
Eighteen-year-old Mathieu vacations at the beach with his family when he meets local teen Cédric. After an extremely erotic kiss, the boys begin a passionate romance, complete with skinny-dipping at night, nude dancing on the beach and intense lovemaking in the dunes; yet, as Mathieu grapples with his sexuality and copes with his sick mother, absent father and annoying kid sister, his bond with Cédric grows stronger until it bursts. Written by
'Presque Rien' ('Come Undone') is an earlier work by the inordinately gifted writer/ director Sébastien Lifshitz (with the collaboration of writer Stéphane Bouquet - the team that gave us the later 'Wild Side'). As we come to understand Lifshitz's manner of storytelling each of his works becomes more treasureable. By allowing his tender and sensitive love stories to unfold in the same random fashion found in the minds of confused and insecure youths - time now, time passed, time reflective, time imagined, time alone - Lifshitz makes his tales more personal, involving the viewer with every aspect of the characters' responses. It takes a bit of work to key into his method, but going with his technique draws us deeply into the film.
Mathieu (handsome and gifted Jérémie Elkaïm) is visiting the seaside for a holiday, a time to allow his mother (Dominique Reymond) to struggle with her undefined illness, cared for by the worldly and wise Annick (Marie Matheron) and accompanied by his sister Sarah (Laetitia Legrix): their distant father has remained at home for business reasons. Weaving in and out of the first moments of the film are images of Mathieu alone, looking depressed, riding trains, speaking to someone in a little recorder. We are left to wonder whether the unfolding action is all memory or contemporary action.
While sunning at the beach Mathieu notices a handsome youth his age starring at him, and we can feel Mathieu's emotions quivering with confusion. The youth Cédric (Stéphane Rideau) follows Mathieu and his sister home, continuing the mystery of attraction. Soon Cédric approaches Mathieu and a gentle introduction leads to a kiss that begins a passionate love obsession. Mathieu is terrified of the direction he is taking, rebuffs Cédric's public approaches, but continues to seek him out for consignations. The two young men are fully in the throes of being in love and the enactment of the physical aspect of this relationship, so very necessary to understanding this story, is shared with the audience in some very erotic and sensual scenes. Yet as the summer wears on Mathieu, a committed student, realizes that Cédric is a drifter working in a condiment stand at a carnival. It becomes apparent that Cédric is the Dionysian partner while Mathieu is the Apollonian one: in a telling time in architectural ruin Mathieu is excited by the beauty of the history and space while Cédric is only interested in the place as a new hideaway for lovemaking.
Mathieu is a complex person, coping with his familial ties strained by critical illness and a non-present father, a fear of his burgeoning sexuality, and his nascent passion for Cédric. Their moments of joy are disrupted by Cédric's admission of infidelity and Mathieu's inability to cope with that issue and eventually they part ways. Time passes, family changes are made, and Mathieu drifts into depression including a suicide attempt. The manner in which Mathieu copes with all of these challenges and finds solace, strangely enough, in one of Cédric's past lovers Pierre (Nils Ohlund) brings the film to an ambiguous yet wholly successful climax.
After viewing the film the feeling of identification with these characters is so strong that the desire to start the film from the beginning now with the knowledge of the complete story is powerful. Lifshitz has given us a film of meditation with passion, conflicts with passion's powers found in love, and a quiet film of silences and reveries that are incomparably beautiful. The entire cast is superb and the direction is gentle and provocative. Lifshitz is most assuredly one of the bright lights of film-making. In French with English subtitles. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp
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