Marie Baie Des Anges

Rated R, 90 min. Directed by Manuel Pradal. Starring Vahina Giocante, Frederic Malgras, Amira Casar, David Kilner, Jamie Harris, Frederic Westerman, Nicolas Welbers, Swan Carpio.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 7, 1998

Tout le monde loves a good pout, and Marie Baie Des Anges does not disappoint. Neither the adolescent strutting of 15-year-old Lolita-in-training Marie (Giocante) nor the reptilian swagger of her young partner in crime Orso (Malgras) has much to say about anything other than the merest hint of teenage angst, but boy, do they look good doing nothing. Pradal's film plays like an homage to the nouvelle vague of Godard and Truffaut (and, at times, Rohmer), with Malgras nailing the essence of a youthful Jean-Paul Belmondo and Giocante carrying off the role of every French starlet since Jean Seberg. Still, Breathless this isn't. Pradal's sun-drenched Riviera locations add more to the film than the actual plot, which centers around these young hoodlums in love as they wander around the Bay of Angels, swim, tease American sailors, and generally slouch about as if they were young, French, and had nothing whatsoever to worry about. Orso, convincingly bitter at an old enemy, is on a perpetual hunt for a gun to settle scores, and Marie spends much of the film drawing leers from the local boys and the aforementioned group of Americans. Both young actors are debuting in Marie Baie Des Anges, and the production notes mention that neither came to the project with any sort of acting experience at all, which, frankly, is hard to imagine. They're terrific in their roles, but you have to wonder if they're acting at all. Pradal, wildly genuflecting before the altar of French cinema, lays on the pretense like there's no tomorrow (and in Marie Baie Des Anges, you kind of get the feeling that there might not be), tossing off bizarre, nonsensical edits, weird, disjointed storylines, and all manner of cinematic loop-de-loops until you're hard-pressed not to toss a flaming croissant through the screen and go join up with Le Pen. Still, the film has a preternatural charm. Approached without irony and perhaps a bit of silliness, Marie Baie Des Anges is pure goofball French cinema, visually namedropping the greats while simultaneously making light of their accomplishments. Whether this was Pradal's intention is unclear. I suspect he didn't set out to make the type of film that stirs up unruly giggles every 15 minutes, but the settings are so lush, the cast so inexplicably gorgeous, and the plot so very, very absent, that it works much better as a satire of the New Wave than it does as an homage. Senseless symbolism, guns, and gams do not a masterpiece make, but taken together they can still at least look pretty damn cool.
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