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David (Pierre-Louis Bonnetblanc) is a teenager spending the summer holiday on his uncle's farm. The film depicts a special day on the farm for David: the first time his two uncles allow him to eat and drink with the men - a group of farmers and other country dwellers. David gets drunk, throws up, lazes around in the sun, and then wanders off through the fields to meet his friend Matthieu (Laurent Simon). It's a day fraught with tension and incident.
Le Souffle is the debut feature film from writer-director Damien Odoul. It is an odd, tantalizing mixture: the carefully shot (in black and white), rather straightforward storytelling is set alongside some surreal and poetic imagery, all of which hints at a bold talent preparing to flourish. So for the most part we get nicely observed, almost documentary-style shots of farm life (e.g. a farmer slits a lamb's throat in close-up) and the countryside on a swelteringly hot day. And we also see some of David's fantasies - or, perhaps more accurately, poetic extensions of his state of mind: he imagines himself covered in mud, frolicking in the woods with wolves, wrestling with his uncles and drifting on the water with a girl.
As David, the previously unknown Bonnetblanc gives a performance which is startling in the way it lacks vanity: he portrays the frustration, awkwardness and casualness of this bored adolescent's day in the sun so well, it sometimes feel as if the viewer is intruding; he's an actor to watch out for. The rest of the cast is good too, although one wonders whether the film sometimes offers a limited view of the secondary characters. Perhaps, though, it's just aiming to portray the limitations of the world in which David is being brought up: he's fatherless, and we might hope that he will have more positive influences around him than these men who seem so scornful of their own upbringings and rather dismissive towards their wives.
In general, then, Le Souffle, at 77 minutes, manages to make quite an impact, and I'm looking forward to Odoul's - and Bonnetblanc's - next work.
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