When Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr's One to Another was over, I couldn't help but think, "Sheesh, could this film be any more FRENCH?" It's filled with the kind of casual nudity and offhand sexuality that has been associated with French film since the glory days of Brigitte Bardot, when they were called "Art Films" in the U.S. and considered just a cut above porn. The gorgeous teens at the film's center dance, have sex and experience existential malaise, Gitanes hanging from their pouty lips. Lizzie Brocheré, the female lead trains her huge eyes on the camera, projecting that distinctive mania and unpredictability often associated with the wild French ingénue.
In One to Another sexuality comes in many forms and the characters are found in various combinations throughout. Brother and sister, Pierre (Arthur Dupont) and Lucie (Lizzie Brochere) are as close as two siblings can get. Lucie is a year older than Pierre and, like everyone who comes into contact with him, is enamored with her younger brother, who is a bit of a narcissist. Based on a true story, the film is narrated by Lucie from a mental hospital, where she ends up some time after her brother Pierre first disappears and then is found murdered. Her wild eyes convey the borderline state she is in, somewhere between complete collapse and manic desperation. She is first driven to find Pierre and then to uncover who has killed him.
The film effectively uses flashbacks to convey how haunted Lucie has become by her memories of Pierre, and how her mind keeps rummaging through their shared history searching for clues to what happened to her brother. Somewhere in the middle of the film we discover Pierre's secret sexual history -- he is not only the bi-sexual center of his and Lucie's tight-knit group of friends, but he has also become a hustler. To feel alive, Pierre must engage his body sexually. He says that "some engage their bodies politically by blowing themselves up. Their bodies are their sole power. No more ideas and words."
One to Another reminded me a little of J.G. Ballard's novel, Running Wild, a detective story that unfolds when the adults in a gated community are found murdered, their teenage children disappeared. It soon becomes obvious that the missing children are their parents' murderers gone underground, leaving the book's narrator, a stuffy British police psychiatrist to circle the question of why these pampered children have become feral.
Certainly the kids in One to Another are left to their own devices, their parents just stunned onlookers unable or unwilling to bring them under control. More likely the adults are vicariously enjoying the wildness of youth through their children. And the youths are wild. The casual way they treat their bodies, tearing off their clothes at the drop of a belt and diving naked into life, reminded me how uptight America and American film still are about sex and sexuality. One to Another felt distinctively French, maybe even titillatingly, shockingly so, but perhaps that was just the callousness of youth. Young bodies in motion, casually unclothed, they turn themselves into weapons against the world and against each other.
One to Another opens Friday, August 3, 2007.