ANAIS IN LOVE (2022)

April 28, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Barely five minutes in, we have concluded that Anais is a whirlwind of activity. She’s behind on her rent and yet turns the conversation with her landlord to fruit juice and a smoke alarm. This is the first feature film from writer-director Charline Bougeois-Tacquet who benefits greatly with the presence of lead actor Anais Demoustier. I have no idea if the name is a coincidence or whether this was written with her in mind, but we quickly realize that Anais is a mess … a charming mess and one for which hope remains.

Anais is always late. She walks, runs, or rides her bicycle everywhere. Her bright red lipstick is always on display, and she’s claustrophobic and prefers to sleep alone. The constant twinkle in her eye means folks look past her seemingly carefree approach to real life, as she makes the best of each landing spot in her directionless path(s) through each day. We observe and learn all of these things on top of the big secret she’s been keeping from her boyfriend Raoul (Christophe Montenez). During the exchange they have when he breaks up with her, she says, “You are violent in your inertia.” This may be my favorite line of the year. What others view as stability and dependability, Anais views as inertia and unappealing.

When Anais takes Daniel (Denys Podalydes) as a lover, it’s the older, married man who ends it by stating he doesn’t want his life to change. Anais shrugs and turns her attention and affections to Daniel’s wife, Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, HUMAN CAPITAL, sister of Carla Bruni). Emilie is a famous author and Anais worms her way in by tracking Emilie to Normandy where she’s holding a symposium. Writing, books, and literature play subtle yet key roles throughout … as if Anais is trying to live out so many of the stories she’s read.

If there is anything lacking here, it’s traditional character conflict. Even the surprise collision of Daniel, Emilie, and Anais at the symposium doesn’t pack the dramatic or comedic punch we would expect. Anais is never much concerned, so neither are we as viewers. We are too enamored and intrigued with her energy and spirit to let real life cause consternation. The subplot with Anais’ mother is the closest we see Anais come to ‘normal’ emotions, but even getting to that point, is yet another whirlwind.

In theaters April 29, 2022 and On Demand May 6, 2022

WATCH THE TRAILER


HUMAN CAPITAL (Il capitale umano, Italy, 2014)

February 26, 2015

Human Capital Greetings again from the darkness. The financial crisis-manslaughter-class warfare-thriller from novelist Stephen Amidon shifts from Connecticut (in the book) to just outside of Milan for director Paolo Virzi’s look at class and character.  A term used by insurance companies to calculate the value of a human life in settlement cases, “human capital” carries even more meaning in this twisted tale of greed and broken dreams.

After an opening sequence that shows an off-duty waiter getting knocked from his bicycle by a swerving SUV in the dark of night, the story is divided into chapters that provide the various perspectives of different characters affected by this hit-and-run. Dino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) is a middle-class real estate business owner whose girlfriend (the too rarely seen Valeria Golino) is pregnant with twins, and his daughter Serena (Matilde Gioli) is dating a private school classmate Massimiliano (Guglielmo Pinelli) who comes from the upper crest Bernaschi family that is living the dream thanks to the dad’s (Fabrizio Gifuni) hedge-fund success.

It’s easy to see how the lives of these two families become intertwined, and how a few other characters are also affected, but the real joy here is in getting to know each through their own actions. Dino desperately wants a taste of the finer things in life, and risks everything by fraudulently obtaining a bank loan in order to buy into Bernaschi’s hedge fund. His wife Roberta is a trusting and pure-hearted woman who accepts her place in society and warmly looks forward to being a new mom. Their daughter Serena proves to be the best judge of character and soon enough boots the spoiled kid Massimiliano to the curb, while connecting with the artistic and misunderstood Luca (Giovanni Anzaldo), though even Serena’s moral compass shows its cracks.

Bernaschi is a smooth operator and the perfect face for a hedge fund so dependent on the financial collapse of its own country. His wife Carla (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) is a lost soul … enjoying the perks of a wealthy lifestyle, but still holding on to her artistic dreams of youth. Life as a trophy wife is evidently not so fulfilling for those with their own aspirations. Their son Massimiliano, as you might imagine, is unable to live up to the expectations of his father, and frequently handles his perceived lack of parental attention by over-boozing at every opportunity.

This film was Italy’s submission to the Academy in the Best Foreign Language category, but unfortunately did not make the final cut. It is rich in texture and remarkable in its ability to convey depth in so many characters. The basic story has some similarities to the film 21 Grams, in that we witness the many ways in which people handle crisis. In this case, the mystery of the initial sequence is left unsolved until near the end, but there are so many personal “fork in the road” moments, that solving the case of the cyclist death somehow doesn’t monopolize our thoughts.

Excellent acting throughout allows us to connect with each of the key characters, and especially worth noting are Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Matilde Gioli. Ms. Gioli is a newcomer with a bright future. She brings believability and strength to a teenager role that would more typically be over-the-top or one-dimensional in the hands of a lesser actress. Even more impressive is the performance from Ms. Bruni Tedeschi who perfectly captures the heartbreak of a woman living a life others can only dream about, while her own dreams are but shadows from the past.

With source material from a U.S. novelist, and subject matter involving the 1% and crisis of conscience, it’s not difficult to imagine an American remake, but this version is highly recommended for those who enjoy a multi-faceted dramatic thriller.

watch the trailer: