Bord de mer

Winner of the prestigious Camera d’Or for ‘best first feature’ at this year’s Cannes film festival, Bord de meris a leisurely but keenly observed ensemble piece set during one year in a small French seaside town. Tracking more than a dozen characters and their comings and goings over the changing seasons, director Julie Lopes-Curval builds up a resonant portrait of people and environment. Although shot in a naturalistic style, the film has many odd, slightly surreal touches. The beach itself, for example, is filled with the usual holiday huts but it also has a factory devoted to processing stones for industrial use. Similarly, some of the characters change jobs from season to season, and the film emphasises their connections with, or desire to escape to, other places. In a town that bustles with holidaymakers in summer and is deserted in winter, thoughts of leaving never seem far off. This is true of Marie (Helen Fillieres), for whom the town’s picturesque pebble beach only means more work in the strange factory. Her boyfriend Paul (Jonathan Zaccai), who works as a lifeguard in summer and as a grocer in winter, is more preoccupied with his widowed mother, Rose (the wonderful Bulle Ogier), and her obsession with the slot machines in the local casino. The other characters, all of whom are connected to each other in some way, have similarly divided feelings about their lives in the town. Lopes-Curval details their mostly incremental but sometimes momentous shifts in fortunes with intriguing subtlety. She makes excellent use of nature as a constant background to the inconstancy of human endeavour.

France, 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo. 89 mins.

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