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Sur le bouts des doigts

Cinematographer-turned-director Yves Angelo’s best film to date, Sur le bouts des doigts is a keenly played two-hander involving a mother and daughter who are both pianists. The setting is a small town where divorcee Juliette (Marina Hands) and her teenage daughter Julie (Ann-Sophie Latour) live in a sparsely furnished stone house that’s dominated by a grand piano. Juliette, who dreamed of being a concert pianist, gives lessons and has devoted her entire life to grooming her only child as a classical musician. Julie doesn’t appear to attend school, has no friends and does little except remain inside and practice, seemingly relishing the constant, unforgiving discipline of the keyboard. Playing the pianoowhich she does exceedingly wellomakes her happy. So happy, in fact, that she can take in her stride the signs that her mother’s mental health is fast deteriorating.
Julie’s blossoming talent represents the image of perfection that her mother always had yearned for. Flashbacks reveal the extent to which Juliette was responsible for Julie’s very survival after a dangerously premature birth, and now the mother’s possessiveness has grown into feelings of jealousy and resentment. Totally convincing as mother and daughter, Hands and Latour effortlessly embody a symbiosis that’s simultaneously nourishing yet unhealthy. Acting as cinematographer as well as director, Angelo establishes a moody atmosphere in which betrayal, nervous collapse and worse seem to be right around the corner. The fluid wide-screen framing is consistently expressive, while the large swathes of classical music (Scarlati, Bach, Chopin and others) are well integrated into the narrative.
France, 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 87 mins.

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