Although little known outside France, director Jacques Doillon is highly regarded at home, especially for his perceptive studies of young people and his ability to elicit remarkable performances from inexperienced actors in films such as La Dr’lesse (1979), La Fille de 15 ans (1989) and Ponette (1996). Doillon’s new film is about a group of young Parisian adults and their crazy love games. The idea behind Carrement à l’Ouest was to combine the so-called ‘marivaudage’ (slyly crafted theatrical banter and romantic machinations) of Marivaux’s plays with the street slang and courtship rituals of today’s youth.
When her boyfriend is beaten up by drug-dealer Alex (Guillaume Saurrel), Fred (Lou Doillon, the director’s daughter by Jane Birkin) finds herself attracted to the live-wire young punk. In an elaborate plant to seduce Alex, Fred begins by encouraging him to pick up her friend Sylvia (Caroline Ducey of Romance fame) in a club. The three repair to a pricey hotel suite, where Fred perversely tries to throw Alex and Sylvia together. During an eventful night of confusion and intrigue, things don’t work out quite as planned.
Filming with lightweight cameras that give the performers plenty of space, Doillon brings a strong sense of realism and spontaneity to material that’s usually treated with much greater deliberation and finesse. The results make for a lively experiment in which the performers are the real winners. France, 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 97 min.