West Point is a 'film noir', a story of family and emigration. It's La Cabo da Rocha, Portugal, the western-most point of the European continent. Opposite the USA, it's a metaphor of Ellis ... See full summary »
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Isabelle Ronayette
Bernard Cerf
Agnès Pontier
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West Point is a 'film noir', a story of family and emigration. It's La Cabo da Rocha, Portugal, the western-most point of the European continent. Opposite the USA, it's a metaphor of Ellis Island. It's the street dances and it's the part of what has been forgotten that Alexander and his sister Jeanne must accept in order to break free from the original crime, the feeling of abandonment and the color of wheat. Written by Anonymous

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5 December 2007 (France)  »

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A fascinating and challenging impressionistic movie
30 June 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

When I went to the Edinburgh International Film Festival, this was a bit of a wild card for me to go and see. I liked the still on the website and it seemed a very strange movie, having something to do with serial killings, romance, and the emigration experience.

For avoidance of confusion it's actually a French film, and the title has nothing to do with the famous American military academy. More it's to do with La Cabo da Rocha, or the most westernmost point of Europe. Surely that's a poignant image for someone emigrating from Portugal to the US (although strangely the emigration here is to France), but it's not tied into the rest of the movie so closely.

So the film is very unusual, it's got 57 minutes of footage which I think is unfortunate for the director because that means it's not a feature and probably won't get picked up by cinemas, but it doesn't really fit as a short either. I'm not sure what would possess someone to make a film that length. It's also using three different film stocks, we get some (glorious) Super-8 material, some grainy black and white 16 mm, and also some standard film stock. There was a rationale behind that, to do with separating out different time-lines and such, but it is a very unusual scheme. The black and white stuff for example is not like watching an old French New Wave film, it uses a much more modern approach to shooting.

We have a brother and a sister who can't forget the summer when their mother is killed and has her body dumped on top of a haystack in the middle of a field. Quite why the killer does this we do not know. Neither do we see the murder, or know anything about the murderer. The mother emigrated from Portugal because of the disastrous political situation there under Salazar. The children grow up but never really seem to forget the summer when mum was killed. At points in the movie we are told that the killer has killed again, and are shown pictures of naked dead women carefully draped over haystacks. There's literally no interest shown by the director in uncovering who this murderer is, and because we just see these bodies pop up all the time in static frames, and the narrator just says, "Another body, same modus operandi" and we're onto the main love story again, I was wondering if it was some elaborate metaphor about how people die many times as they grow older, have new relationships and new ideas, like snakes sloughing a skin. There's no pointer from Rebouillon in any direction, he leaves the significance seemingly up to the viewer. I mean this movie is not by any stretch a police procedural or a serial killer movie. Rebouillon could simply have left the murder of the mother as a one-off event.

The main story is really about Jeanne who is a lesbian and makes friends with a lot of feminine green-eyed feminists who love cats, if you can believe it (I'm quoting the film). The movie subverts the typically French art-house notion of two super-intellectual sensual lovers who come out with impossibly unrehearsed existential nuggets one after the other whilst in clinches or at parties. Jeanne comes out with some real doggerel at points, comparing her lover to a fine wine for example. For all that the love story, is very much a traditionally French thing, and is shown very impressionistically. At one point we see Jeanne naked on the floor on piles of random photos and soon after on children's drawings wearing only yellow plastic boots whilst talking to her lover.

Another strand of the movie Jeanne has joins a group of street dancers, I'm no connoisseur of dancing, but the stuff they were doing was like a mixture of parkour and dancing, exploring the forms of the city and each others bodies. So that was great to watch.

As I mentioned the Super-8 shots are glorious, and typically used to show nature scenes. Some of the shots filled me with ecstasy, wild flowers smudging and bleeding colour on the screen and dancing, a sun-blessed hill coming alive like a Fauvist dream. I would have loved it if the whole movie was Super-8ed really.

The reels shot with "normal" film stock seemed self-reflexive, about the making of the movie, about researching the immigrant experience, all sorts really.

It would have been absolutely fascinating if the director had been there at the end, because there were lots of questions to answer!! I take the film as being impressionistic, there really was no overarching coherency to grasp in my opinion. I just wish that there was more challenging cinema like this around. I also wish I had the DVD to play over and over so that I could try to understand a bit more and do continuous rewind on some of the super-8 stuff.

This is a testament to a family and in particular Jeanne's life that feels like a dream looking back on it now. High Art.


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