La Vie nouvelle

With Sombre (1998), his disturbing first feature about a serial killer, Philippe Grandrieux established himself as a thoroughly unique voice in contemporary French cinema. The director’s second film, La Vie nouvelle is equally troubling and imaginative. From the first shots we find ourselves in Grandrieux’s very strange universe as a grainy, hand-held image moves and flickers towards a group of people looking expectantly upwards. After this eerie opening we have no idea where we are. The burnt, war-ravaged landscape makes us think of Bosnia or Chechnya. A girl is singled out of a line of captives, her long hair is cut and she ends up in a strip club where she is turned into a prostitute serving anonymous foreign clients. A young American sees her and pursues her, seeking her out for a sexual encounter which marks the beginning of his obsession.
It is clear that narrative is the last thing that interests Grandrieux. He is haunted by a need to find images for a state of mind which is not specific but universal. The film is full of threat and menace; violence hovers over almost every encounter. This is a disconcerting work: claustrophobic, primal, sexual, it calls to mind the paintings of Francis Bacon or Edvard Munch. The look of the film is powerful–gritty images are either de-saturated or drenched in garish colour. Rarely has the human body been so effectively photographed in all its complexities: its beauty, its sensuality, its horror, its anger. In what is essentially a film without dialogue, it is difficult to find words to describe Grandrieux’s visionary, compelling artistry.
France, 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby/dts digital sound. 102 mins.

Book Tickets