Seaside (2002)

“We’re all waiting for something.”

Director Julie Lopes-Curval states that the film Seaside is inspired by Edward Hopper, and the film, visually, is stunning. But when critics compare Seaside to the films of Eric Rohmer … no … there’s simply no comparison. Rohmer films are full of fascinating dialogue, and Rohmer films create scenarios and dialogues that allow the characters to work through their moral dilemmas. While the pacing of Seaside can arguably be compared to the pacing of a Rohmer film, the characters in Seaside are flat and uninteresting. If this is Rohmer–well, it’s Rohmer without a heart and a soul.

Seaside is set in a small French resort. The main industry is pebble collection. The film is divided in four seasonal sections, and shows how the regulars and the tourists drift in and out of each other’s lives. Marie (Helene Fillieres) works in the pebble-sorting factory. Albert’s family once owned the factory, but although the factory employs Albert (Patrick Lizana), his heart–understandably–isn’t in the job. There are a few other minor characters in the film–Marie’s unenthusiastic boyfriend, Paul (Jonathan Zaccai), his slot-machine addicted mother Rose (Bulle Ogier), and Albert’s mother, Odette (Liliane Rovere).

The idea of a seaside town invaded by tourists isn’t new to cinema, but it’s an idea that’s been explored in far better films than Seaside. The film fails to weld these characters into any sort of dissectible relationships. The marriage between Albert and his wife, for example, isn’t explored. It exists, and we’re shown a domestic scene or two, but there’s no introspection. Marie and her boyfriend Paul are seen as not a particularly happy pair, but again, the film fails to really get inside the lives or the minds of its characters. The characters remain lonely, bored, disconnected drifters–but not much beyond that. It’s as though they are all just distant, blurred figures on a beautiful postcard. In French with English subtitles.

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