C'est déjà l'été

C'est déjà l'été


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

To make a movie that looks and sounds like a fly-on-the-wall doc is a genuine achievement and first time director Martijn Maria Smits deserves to be talked about as the dark horse of Netherlands cinema. His style is reminiscent of the Dardenne brothers who make award winning, wrist slashingly depressing, neo-realistic arthouse fare, such as Rosetta.

This study of life on the lowest rung of a broken ladder is unmitigating in its depiction of despair, turned rancid by boredom, and aimless drifting from nowhere to nothing, interlaced with bad sex, cheap drugs, petty theft, truancy and welfare handouts. The film is shot in Seraing, Belgium, a polluted, ugly little town, where the only people having any fun are unemployed old guys who meet up to get pissed in a under-the-counter drinking hole.

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Jean (Patrick Descamps) spends his days and some of his nights in a van, surrounded by empty beer cans and ciggie stubs. Separated from his wife, he lives with his daughter Marie (Julie Anson), her five month old child and son Ben (Benjamin Willem). Communication between them has long since deteriorated into meaningless sign language, shopping demands or the price of babysitting.

Marie is trapped in single motherhood and poverty. Her only release is being shagged by different blokes, which looks as erotic as slipping on live trout in the wet room at a Chinese whorehouse. Ben looks about 14. He finds talking to grown ups impossible, even with his sympathetic teacher who says he wants to help him, not punish him. However, within his own world, he is streetwise and active. Also, he is good with the baby.

Watching this dysfunctional family implode is sobering, if not suicidal. The performances of an amateur cast – only Descamps is a pro – are natural enough, with the exception of Willem, who is truly memorable.

In downtown Seraing, where the streets are paved with litter and the skies thick with smog, there is no future, only waste. Ben is right to ignore the rules and remain silent. It is Jean and Marie who have been swept under by the flood. The flip side of expectation is disappointment. Living with it sucks energy from the brain, leaving a husk, like the corpses of mosquitoes after a fire.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2010
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C'est déjà l'été packshot
Life without hope in a polluted Belgian town.
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Director: Martijn Maria Smits

Writer: Bastiaan Kroeger, Martijn Maria Smits

Starring: Patrick Descamps, Benjamin Willem, Julie Anson

Year: 2010

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: Netherlands/Belgium


EIFF 2010

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