July Tales

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

July Tales
"The result is a slight but sweet evocation of a hazy day of summer when potential hangs like pollen in the air."

A hint of Eric Rohmer wafts in on the summer breeze in this diptych by Guillaume Brac. It is lust rather than love that is in the air in both stories, each taking place on a specific summers day in July 2016. In the first, The Sunday Friend, two acquaintances Lucie (Lucie Grunstein) and Milena (Milena Csergo) take a swimming trip to the park. There, a park steward (Jean Joudé) takes a shine to Milena, leading Lucie to head out on an adventure of her own. In the second, Hanne And The National Holiday, a Norwegian student is tracked on Bastille Day as she has three potentially romantic encounters with an Italian, an Armenian and a Frenchman.

Conceived as a piece in which young actors from the National Conservatoire of Theatre could work on "directed improvisation", the result is loose limbed. The stronger of the two is the first, largely because the incidents that happen during this droll stroll in the park don't feel forced. The idea of chance encounters with two different men and with very different results is believable and the acting enjoyably naturalistic. The result is a slight but sweet evocation of a hazy day of summer when potential hangs like pollen in the air.

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The section concerning Hanne is less successful because Brac insists on adding so much incident. Through the course of the day there will be two scenes of borderline sexual harassment, a punch on the nose and a drunken party - enough to fill a feature and it all feels crammed into the short film format, with the conversations between so inconsequential that the film never finds a rhythm. The insertion of a real-life news event also feels like a cynically employed device intended to add weight to the drama rather than something that sits organically within it.

This is worth seeing for The Sunday Friend and the decent performances from some of France's next generation of actors - in particular, Grunstein - but aspects of Hanne And The National Holiday leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

Reviewed on: 12 Apr 2018
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Two languorous summer days, two thorny tales of romantic misunderstanding.


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