À tout de suite

           Director Benoît Jacquot has been a favorite at the "Rendez-Vous
   with French Cinema," so it’s no surprise that the 2005 edition included
   his recent drama

           The film is set in 1975 and shot in luscious black and white on digital
   video (partly to incorporate period documentary footage). It centers
   on a disaffected young art student named Lili(Isild Le Besco) who falls
   in love with a Morrocan immigrant. Not long after she begins a
   relationship with this charismatic stranger, she learns he and some
   friends have participated in a bank robbery in which someone was
   killed. Soon, he and his accomplice are hiding out in her room while
   they plot their next moves. When asked to join the thieves on the lam,
   the young girl quickly assents and they head off to a country house
   before they flee to Madrid, then Tangiers and eventually to Greece.

           Lili is detained in the airport in Athens (in a sequence that was
   better handled in the superior drama
   is separated from the others. Since she and her lover have previously
   discussed what she should do if they ever were to land apart – which
   was for her to remain in one place – she becomes determined
   to establish a new life for herself, finding work and waiting for a reunion.

           Jacquot previously has shown himself a capable handler of
   actresses (see
A SINGLE WOMAN with Virginie Ledoyen), but with
   À TOUT DE SUITE, he’s come a cropper. The early sequences have a
   documentary-like feel to them but as the story progresses and the
   characters leave France, the movie becomes unmoored as well. The
   sequences of the lovers on the lam, first in the French countryside and
   later wandering through Europe and North Africa meander and
   become repetitive.

           In my opinion (which I’m aware I may not share with some of
   my more esteemed colleagues), the major flaw of
   is the casting of Isild Le Besco in the leading role. While not
   conventionally beautiful by Hollywood standards, the actress
   possesses an intriguing “look,” and previously proved her abilities
   in Jacquot's
SADE and other films. Here though, for whatever reason,
   she appears devoid of any thespian skills. She has opted (or has been
   directed) to remain remote and inexpressive – almost to the point
   that it becomes painful to watch her. She is passable in the early half
   of the film as her character moves from frustrated teenager to fugitive
   on the lam, but once her character becomes separated from the
   others, Le Besco becomes so impassive that audience members
   will begin to lose interest (I know I did). Despite having incredible
   luck and literally depending on the kindness of strangers, she offers
   nothing in return. When she finally utters a wan, weak “Merci,” it’s
   too little, too late.

           Jacquot has based this film on the memoirs of Elizabeth Fanger’s
When I Was 19.  On the page, one can have a passive
   heroine, but in the movies (so-called because, well, they
move), it
   can be a deadly choice. The fragmented narrative (meant to convey
   the heroine’s emotional frame of mind) becomes tedious. Although
   the film is shot in beautiful black and white by Caroline Champetier,
   À TOUT DE SUITE lacks a coherent narrative drive. Some may find
   the tale engrossing and impressive, and more power to them. For my
   tastes, it was dull and empty. Chacun à son goût!

Rating:                         C
MPAA Rating:            None (nudity, sexual situations, violence)
                    Viewed at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center
                            2005 Rendez-vous with French Cinema