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    Through the Forest

    The forest for the trees

    Writer-director Jean-Paul Civeyrac is more caught up in the gimmick of constructing his film "Through the Forest" out of unbroken takes than in telling a really compelling story.


    Quick, what's the first thing you do if you're a director trying to make yourself seem cool?

    Original title: ň travers la forźt.
    Written and directed by: Jean-Paul Civeyrac.
    Cast: Camille Berthomier, Mireille Roussel, Aurélien Deseez, Valérie Crunchant, Jason Ciarapica, Alice Dubuisson, Morgane Hainaux, Aurélien Wiik.
    Cinematography: Céline Bozon.
    Edited by: Florence Bresson.
    In French with English subtitles.
    New York Film Festival 2005

    Festival site
    Don't Move

    Regular Lovers
    Through the Forest
    Okay, okay, besides making the movie go backwards. What's the second thing you do? Right! You shoot your scenes in one continuous shot. Whoa, dude! Awesome!

    But wait — since this little gimmick has already been used as long ago as Hitchcock's "Rope" and as recently as the one-take Russian film "Russian Ark," it's not such an awesome experiment anymore. So when French director Jean-Paul Civeyrac makes his new film "Through the Forest" in 10 unbroken scenes, the question is whether it's a worthwhile movie without the ostentatious technique. If so, fine. If not, big deal.

    And the verdict is — well, ambiguous. The story is, a young woman named Armelle is broken up by the unexplained disappearance of her boyfriend, Renaud — though his ghost still visits her. Conjugally, in fact. When the ghost vanishes for good, Armelle's sisters chide her for mooning over her lost love, and demand that she finally move on. There are discussions about the nature of love — is it so rare that one chance is all we get, or is it the mundane result of our practical needs?

    The film is sometimes playful with its own conventions. Who's out of the frame as often as significant as who's in it. Since we're not going to cut back and forth between two people in a conversation, there's often a voice coming from outside our vision — and the question becomes, is it real? Is it imaginary? Is it wishful thinking? Never forget, there are ghosts about — and sad memories.

    So that's kind of clever. The lighting is kind of clever. The angles and the movement off-camera are kind of clever. But the approach is no longer staggeringly original, and the result is not exceptionally evocative. It isn't a movie that's likely to stick with you on a gut level. In fact, one of its emotional weaknesses has something to do with the way it's made — the camera is frequently focused close-up on one character, and there's so much monologue going on that the movie becomes less involving as it goes along. The one-shot tactic is actually not so much an achievement as a limitation on what director Jean-Paul Civeyrac can do as a storyteller. "Through the Forest" is caught somewhere between a compelling story and a mundane film-school exercise.

    SEPTEMBER 28, 2005

    Reader comments on Through the Forest:

  • Josh Tanzer   from Josh Tanzer, Oct 24, 2005
  • Re: Josh Tanzer   from Pokey, Oct 30, 2006

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