A Tout de Suite (2004)

“It was like a holiday.”

Benoit Jacquot’s film A Tout de Suite is the story of a young bourgeois Parisian art student named Lili (Isild Le Besco) who inadvertently is caught up in a life of crime. Lili hits the clubs and discos of 1970s Paris and meets a flash rogue who buys her drinks. Lili agrees to meet the stranger later and is subsequently attracted to his Moroccan friend, Bada (Ouassini Embarek). When Bada robs a bank and goes on the run from the police, Lili is sucked into the vortex created by the crime.

Bada, Lili, Bada’s violent accomplice Alain (Nicolas Duvauchelle) and his girlfriend form a troubled foursome–eventually traveling to Tangiers. Without the restraints and responsibilities of the adult world, and with plenty of money, a holiday atmosphere prevails, and the four fugitives whoop it up–rapidly spending all the cash. From here, things begin to go downhill.

Lili is an extremely passive character, and there’s really no point at which she makes a conscious decision to live an underground life with a criminal gang. It just happens, and it’s certainly easy to believe that she’s the type of person who’d be swept up in the aftermath of a bank robbery committed by a man she’s just met. It’s in Greece, a place Lili has always wanted to visit, that reality makes itself felt–and what was once a carefree jaunt morphs into a nightmarish, sobering experience.

A Tout de Suite feels exactly like a 70s French New Wave film, and this is admirably achieved by filming exclusively in black, white and moody greys with a slightly grainy edge to the film quality itself. There’s a total lack of emotion here (the film reminds me of Godard’s style), and Lili’s passivity magnifies the lack of emotional connections between the characters. Unfortunately, Lili’s lack of emotional response becomes contagious, and it’s difficult for the viewer to feel much involvement in her plight. When things go from bad to worse, and Lili continues to sink into the moral void of the situation, there’s a certain amount of frustration created by her complete and utter emotional inertia. Based on a memoir by Elisabeth Fanger, A Tout de Suite is in French with English subtitles, and the DVD includes the trailer and 4 extended scenes. From director Benoit Jacquot.


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