Right Now

 (Benoit Jacquot, France, 2004) 95 minutes


Director: Benoit Jacquot
Producers: Georges Benayoun, Raoul Saada
Screenplay: Benoit Jacquot,
from the memoir When I Was 19 by Elisabeth Fanger
Production Design: Antoine Platteau
Cinematography: Caroline Champetier
Editor: Luc Barnier
Isild Le Besco (Lili)
Ouassini Embarek (Bada)
Nicolas Duvauchelle (Alain)
Laurence Cordier (Joelle)
Forini Kodoukaki
Leonor Graser
Emmanuelle Bercot (Laurence)

Reviews and notes

A Tout de Suite is an exceptionally perceptive film about what it's like to be 19 years old. Directed by Benoit Jacquot and based on a memoir by Elisabeth Fanger, it tells the story of a young woman who follows a romantic impulse that leads her into trouble. There's no decision involved in following this impulse. It's instinctive. Her capacity for caution has not yet been developed.

The beauty of A Tout de Suite - aside from its being quite beautiful to look at, shot in a nostalgic black and white - is that it's neither romantic nor cynical. At all points in the story, you are aware of how our heroine, Lili (Isild Le Besco), sees her situation and also of how we see it. Where she sees romance, we see tawdriness. Where she sees adventure, we see turmoil. We know that, if we were 19, we'd probably see things her way. Most movies evoke the romance of youth, but gives us the whole picture: youth's splendor but also its ugliness, powerlessness and confusion.

The emotional journey is told largely through close-ups of Le Besco, an actress blessed with a face worthy of contemplation. She can look very pretty and very ordinary by turns, and there's a maturity about her essence - or her thoughts, as expressed through her face - that makes her interesting. It's the same quality Scarlett Johansson has, except in Le Besco's case it's not spoiled by misbegotten vanity. Moreover, she's a real talent, who does something remarkable in A Tout de Suite, conveying the sense of a highly developed consciousness in embryo, a thinking person who hasn't yet learned the value of reason.

It's 1975, and Lili is an art student from a middle-class family. She goes to a bar and falls in love with Bada (Ouassini Embarek), a naive Moroccan boy, in the way that people fall in love at that age. They look at each other and understand all, because at that age everything's on the surface. Within a few days she can't live without him, and so she's rather distressed when she finds out that he and his buddies have tried to rob a bank. A cashier is dead, and Bada is a fugitive.

The rest of the movie traces Lili's odyssey. Bada, his criminal partner, his partner's girlfriend and Lili hit the road. Their only chance is leaving the country. A Tout de Suite becomes a detailed travelogue that follows a fascinating geographical and psychological trajectory. Lili's romantic delusion comes up against Bada's very real and well-earned case of adult guilt. The consequences are dire. At the same time, these folks are young and more or less on vacation. The cell door might shut at any moment, but in the meantime they're more free than they've ever been.

The irony is that the freedom they're tasting is not something that had to be stolen. It would have been available to them in the natural course of things. They're not reveling in anything but unfettered adulthood.

In one memorable scene, Lili dances in a nightclub to Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To), the Diana Ross song that was a hit at the time. Lili has her eyes closed, and you can feel the psychic will with which she's trying to make life give way to her romantic misinterpretation of it. It's a doomed effort, and sad to see, because we've all been through it - the young adult equivalent of losing Santa Claus. That's the sobering moment when one realizes that sex can't cure everything.
- Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle, 17 June 2005.

Weblink: Review by J Hoberman, Village Voice, 26 April 2005.

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