When the Sea Rises
(Quand la mer monte ...)

     Star Yolande Moreau earned a Best Actress César and also shared the
prize for debut director with her collaborator Gilles Porte for this intriguing
little fable.

     Moreau stars as Irène, a fortysomething actress who travels around France
with minimal props while performing a one-person show that includes some
audience interaction. Each night she seeks a volunteer to be her "chicken,"
a male who will play her character's partner in crime. While traveling through
one town, her car breaks down and is fixed by Dries (Wim Willaert). To pay him
for his assistance, she offers him a free ticket to her show. That night, Dries
volunteers to be her "chicken" and he clearly is besotted with the zaftig
performer who wears a mask and is covered in stage blood during the show.

     When Dries reappears a second time, he causes a ruckus in the theater
when he violently confronts latecomers. Feeling a bit sorry for him, Irène offers
to drive him home -- which turns out to be a large space filled with oversized
puppets. The pair engage in flirtatious banter, despite the fact that Irène
is married. This being a French film, of course the pair embark on an affair.

     Moreau delineates the differences between Irène's volatile and domineering
stage presence and her shy, quiet offstage personality nicely. (She herself was
a touring performer in her youth, which lends the film the aura of truth.) Moreau
works beautifully in tandem with Willerts, who is more love-struck puppy.

      But there's a doomed quality to their relationship and the film's
denouement particularly as Dries comes to see his role in her life and art as
one that is necessary. The film's ending is a bit twee, but it doesn't mar
the experience.

                                      Rating:                        B
                                      Running time:            89 mins.

                Viewed at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center
            2005 Rendez-vous with French Cinema