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La Maladie Blanche / The White Illness [or disease]

Posted by keith1942 on May 5, 2012

France 2011, Christelle Lhereux, 43 minutes, black and white and colour.

Shown in the New Features at Bradford International Film Festival.

This is an intriguing and visually splendid film. It was screened from HDCam. I did not spot what format the film was actually shot on: and have not found a source yet with that information. It is visually very distinctive: it reminded me of some of the odd formats that Michael Almereyda used in the New York ‘Indie’ scene.

The film is a variation or –re-interpretation of Beauty and the Beast: at one point we se a father reading the book at bedtime to his daughter. This is Myrtle, a little girl who wakes to discover a wandering wild boar, which she follows into the woods and to a cave. The cave also features primitive wall drawings of wild life, including a wild boar. The father, discovering his daughter’s absence, follows, with his gun loaded and ready.

Clearly the film’s narrative is full of symbolism, mainly I would guess to what is generally referred to as ‘patriarchy’. The Festival Catalogue mentions both Jean Cocteau and Apichatpong Weerasethakul as influences. And the director has developed a reputation in the field of video installations. One can discern all three stands in this half-length feature.

Apart from the ambiguous resonance in the plot the film offers an observational pleasure. The village in which father and daughter live is hosting a festivity. And in the early part of the film we constantly return to observe the children, the passing back and forth in the street and a bar, and an outdoor disco where the teenagers mix and socialise.

The Catalogue describes the film as a ’magical, monochrome, moonlit reverie’, an apt description. It is somewhat delicate but very graceful. It is also offers a substantial fairy tale.

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