I had my first weekend off in a very long time, just now. It was just the tonic; exactly what I needed to get back to myself and realize I am more than merely the sum of my CV. I spent the whole time with loved ones, which was exciting and energy packed, but by the end of it I was knackered. Sunday night I spent in bed, with the perfect pizza (Air cured beef, parmesan, and rocket, with a side of flirtation from the chefs while I watched them make it), a bottle of Italian red, and a spontaneously watched French film, Love Like Poison.
Initially I was suckered in by the title of this number, it being swiped from a Serge Gainsbourg song. Like every dreamy English chick, my eyes are often fixated across the channel on our cooler Gallic cousins, so a Serge reference doesn’t slip my notice easily. And my wide-eyed desire for French cinema to be just that bit more effortlessly cool than I could aspire to wasn’t left unsatisfied.
The film is a visual feast. Anna, the heroine, has a wardrobe somewhere halfway towards adulthood, with plenty of denim, broderie anglaise, and elaborate handcrafted knitwear. So sartorially ambiguous as to be anywhere from seven to seventeen. And the French countryside as a backdrop, and big old house full of floral fabrics, patchworks, and beautiful old stained glass and panelling add to the nostalgic, infantilizing feeling. Not to mention they make you want to drop your city existence and go wear cardigans and pick flowers, or whatever the hell they do in the French countryside anyway. It’s that kind of soft-lit, Virgin Suicides-y vibe that pretty much every summer makes me vow I’m only gonna wear white dresses and never tie my hair up again.
It’s not just the visuals, though. I mean, we’re getting the picture quickly that I will notice a nice pair of curtains or a pretty dress as much as anything else in a film, right? But that can’t just be it. All style and no substance is dull dull dull.
The film itself is an imperfect and messy map of frustrated desires. Anna comes home for a summer from boarding school, and rattles around her rainy house taking care of her sick grandfather and trying to deal with the fact that her father has left her mother. Her mother is jealous that Anna will always have her fathers’ love, and jealous of the youth and beauty she feels she is losing. There is an ambiguous desire from both women towards the local priest (an Italian dude who is hotter than any man has a right to be, I shit you not I actually verbalized this out loud to an empty room), and Anna has an exploratory teen romance with a gawky local teen boy. For every moment of soft-lit tenderness there is an uncomfortable moment of sensuality bursting out where it shouldn’t, just like real life.
The tension in the film is emphasized by Anna’s impending confirmation, which takes place in a huge, imposing, old world church, with all the elaborate, old world Catholic trappings. In dealing with funerals and early sexual experiences against this backdrop, the film gives a slightly more cut and dried interpretation of developing into a woman than I am sure many of us experienced, but there are enough unanswered questions and difficulties that it still feels semi-realistic, despite it’s too-beautiful artificiality on occasion.
This is the perfect film to watch on one of those moody early evenings when you’re alone and need to be occupied without making much effort. like I did, you can just lie back and let it gently take you through the lives of it’s inhabitants, to it’s not-too saccharine conclusion, and come out feeling as refreshed as if you’d just holidayed in it’s beautiful locales. Lovely.
plus; the end credits had this great choral arrangement of Radiohead’s Creep, that I totally wasn’t expecting, but worked perfectly.