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So here's another "black box" review, comment on a festival film months gone, unlikely to reappear, yet too good to let pass now that I've thought of it. Dominique Cabréra's Le Lait de la tendresse humaine, riffs De Sica's A Brief Vacation, , another film virtually impossible to re-see. Another touchpoint is (I use it too often) Visitor Q, , but let's leave that too. Vacation, and Q, are male products. Pane e tulipani, offers a male-directed but female-written spontaneous flight.
That Christelle doesn't flee, that she remains almost unbearably nearby, is the film's crux. This nearness sustains a tension supported by film language found more commonly in thrillers than in domestic drama. Though at first she seems so spaced that one has to wonder if she's beyond the brink of sanity, hints of design increasingly mold Christelle's expression. Watch her hands, her mouth reacting to getting or not what she's mimed wanting. She's a charades player, bound by her promise to herself to be understood without capitulating. Even when she collapses into herself, defeated, I sense a gamester's miming: "Hot! Hot! No! Cold! Warmer! Very warm! Very! Very! ALMOST!!!" So, of course, a collusion develops between her and her neighbor Claire, barely acknowledged by Claire, but more suspenseful for that. At least in this one film's milieu, it's a collusion possible only between women. That Cabréra gives Christelle a male child, so that the family she leaves is a pair of males, is no accident.
I just watched a lesser film in which, as is often the case, the villain was the only character with a sense of humor. Christelle's no villain, yet she suffers here with perfect comedienne's timing. Her suffering's no less real, and maybe it's even more real, for that.
Apparently there's a trailer, so maybe this one will come round after all. Watching Le Lait de... , concentrate on the tiny, multiple-unit set, on every wall and on what's likely behind it, on distances. How far, how near is Christelle ever? Never blink while Christelle's miming at you. Stare your soul out when you think she's forgotten you.
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