Looking For Cheyenne

Looking For Cheyenne


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

This French drama is dedicated to the basic question of whether life in contemporary capitalist society is worth living. Arguing the case for is Sonia, a thirty-something Parisian chemistry teacher. Arguing the case against is Cheyenne, a former journalist whose experience of long-term unemployment has led her to the conclusions that the system is rotten and that the only vrai way to live is outside of it.

What makes all this more than academic - cue national stereotype that the French love to debate - is that Sonia and Cheyenne are/were/could still be lovers, contingent upon whether Sonia will find Cheyenne or simply embark upon a relationship with someone else and, even if they are reunited, whether there is the possibility of finding some common - compromised - ground between them.

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Given all this, the main question about Oublier Cheyenne is whether there's enough to it to come across as cinema rather than socio-political discussion. Much in the manner of the film, my answer is ambivalent. There are some devices - direct to camera addresses, superimposed images, subjective noises etc. - that are pretty much purely cinematic. But at the same time these also sometimes feel a touch obtrusive in comparison with the more subtle - less charitable reviewers might say somewhat flat - use of mise-en-scene that otherwise predominates. As such, the way in which the failure of the relationship between Sonia and potential new partner Beatrice is telegraphed through the latter's inner thoughts, that she will be deliberately stand-offish, even cruel, as a means of testing the former's interest, perhaps signals a failure of nerve on the part of director Valérie Minetto and her co-writer Cécile Vargaftig, as if they did not quite trust themselves or their actors to make the point otherwise.

In truth, however, they shouldn't have worried, in that what could easily have been nothing more than mouthpieces for conflicting forms of life instead emerge as convincing, complex, living, breathing individuals with Aurelia Petit and Mila Dekker particularly outstanding in this regard.

As such, the film emerges in the end as more Varda than Godard, arguing in favour of the personal over the political in those situations where - contra the old slogan - they are not equivalent.

All told, Oublier Cheyenne is an assured sophomore effort that's worth a look.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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A couple split up and stumble through life whilst still in love with each other.
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Director: Valérie Minetto

Writer: Valérie Minetto, Cécile Vargaftig

Starring: Mila Dekker, Aurélia Petit, Malik Zidi, Laurence Côte, Luc Leclerc du Sablon, Christine Dory

Year: 2005

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: France


Birds 2007
EIFF 2006

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