Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

The Process of the title, one supposes, refers to the sequence of events that lead Beatrice Dalle's unnamed actress protagonist to take her life. First her daughter dies in a car accident. Then she develops breast cancer and undergoes a mastectomy. Her relationship with her husband, himself an actor, deteriorates. She turns to casual sexual encounters and tattoos her arm in the manner of a concentration camp prisoner. She boxes some possessions up, burns others, eats broken glass - it's unclear whether this attempt fails or is merely a first step - shoots up some drugs she has procured and tapes a bag over her head. The End.

Call it the anti-Three Colours Blue, taking a similar incident in the life of one of the privileged, beautiful people, but denying redemption and re-integration into the "little smiling hooks" of family, society and relationships.

Yet, ironically, the deliberately non-linear chronology of the film, especially in its early stages, serves to question the inexorable logic of the above synopsis, an impression enhanced by writer/director C S Leigh's use of distruptive quotations and intertitles and his rigorously formal method, the film being constructed around 29 single-shot sequences, in which the camera moves in, out or around the action in an eschewal of normal practices of mise-en-scene and editing.

Thus, one is drawn to feel that there's nothing inevitable about the actress's suicide. Interventions to disrupt the process seem possible at various junctures, while a developing obsession with the Holocaust and a copy of Julia Kristeva's Black Sun point to an unhealthy interest in guilt, depression, the abject and limit experiences.

Suffice to say this is difficult, challenging viewing and a film of considerable bravery from Leigh and his performers. The question is whether shock tactics like the rough, animalistic sex scene with Dalle's two male partners masturbating one another really contribute to the overall effect, or exist more as controversy-courting shock tactics.

Alas, given the coventionally unconventional scoring - ex-Velvet Underground man John Cale contribues suitably decentred piano fragments - and the presence of the iconic Dalle and Giulliame Depardieu rather than the unknowns of, say, Gaspar Noe's Seul Contre Tous, inclines one more towards the latter opinion.

Reviewed on: 25 Aug 2004
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Casual sex, a mastectomy, marital disintegration leads a depressed actress to take her life.

Director: C S Leigh

Writer: C S Leigh

Starring: Beatrice Dalle, Guilliame Depardieu, Julia Faure, Daniel Duval, Sebastien Viala, Francoise Klein, Erik Arnaud, Leos Carax, Hannah Westaway

Year: 2004

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: France/UK


EIFF 2004

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