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My Life on Ice presents the unique point of view of 16-year-old Etienne, a cute would-be ice skating champion living in provincial Rouen who is obsessed with filming his daily life with a digital camera. Told from his subjective perspective, the focus of Etienne's video diary subtly takes shape as he records his single mother, his best friend Ludovic, and, almost stalker-like, his handsome male geography teacher Laurent. Though explaining his goal is to match his mother with Laurent, he gradually comes to the realization that other unconscious desires are motivating him, as hinted at in an intense discussion with Ludovic about the possibility of love between men. Written by
Etienne a sixteen year old teenager lives with his widowed mother in Rouen. For his birthday, his grand-mother gives him something that will completely change his life: a video camera. From then onwards, he begins to film everyone around him (his mother, his grand-mother, his best pal, Ludovic his history and geography teacher) alternately with important events that happen to him in the beginning of the year 2002: his training in figure skating for the final, the transition at the Euro or the upheaval caused by the first results of the presidential elections with Jacques Chirac against the FN leader Jean Marie Le Pen...
They gave vigor to the musical again with "Jeanne and the Perfect Guy" (1998), they gave a new lease of life for the road movie in "the Adventures of Felix" (2000). The couple OLivier Ducastel-Jacques Martineau (behind the camera as well as in life) scores and signs with this particular exercise of style which brings the cinema to its basic roots which consist in pure filming. Indeed, all the movie is made through Etienne's camera and handled by a non-professional actor. A little like in "the Blair Witch Project" (1999), it takes a little time to get used to the incessant movements of the camera but once you overcame this difficulty, one can without any risk immerse oneself in the video made by Etienne and discover his (true) life in Rouen on account of the two director's intentions.
The camera gives Etienne a meaning to his life, a reason to live and it enables him to better understand the world that surrounds him. Moreover, Etienne is a teenager and adolescence is a difficult time because it's a transition between childhood and adulthood and in a way, the camera is here to reassure him, to make him gain self-confidence. By handling it, he feels safe enough to film a time of his life in bloom: a will to find true love (this year will be the year of love), curiosity about his body (he films parts of it) and affirmations of his passions (video, figure skating). On another extent, with his camera Etienne makes all the people he films go through all the possible reactions: from amusement to irritation through embarrassment (on these moments, it's nearly voyeurism) and his treasure has a real power on the filmed people because they often ask Etienne to stop filming them but without success (the sequence when Ariane Ascaride threatens his son to confiscate his camera but ends up giving it up is a good example).
By describing a delicate portrait of their young main character, by directing him according to their indications, the 2 real authors of this flick still remain faithful to their favorite topic: search for happiness. Something which affects the spectator too and with "my true life on ice in Rouen", they have succeeded once again in fulfilling their pledges: to make the spectator happy during all the film and we leave the projection with a big smile.
That said, one can have a few reservations about their third movie: not all the clichés linked to adolescence have been evacuated and the amateurish side of the whole may sometimes tire. Then, it seems a nit unlikely to me that Etienne's history-geography teacher can live with his mother. It's also a shame that the screenplay is often repetitive (the characters who express their annoyance when Etienne constantly films them). In a way, this last fault is nearly normal. The film-makers couldn't avoid him.
But overall it would be out of place to deny oneself at the vision of this delicate and sensitive movie with nearly a documentary aspect which isn't to be ranked in the same line as the terrible "Benny's video" (1992) by Michael Haneke. And for the film-makers, it is a faultless beginning of career so far. Let's hope it lasts.
Remark: "my True Life on Ice in Rouen" was shot in the city where I live: Rouen! So, it was funny to see familiar places in a movie.
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