“A tout de suite” both captivates and disappoints

Kelly Voss

With “A tout de suite”, French director BenoŒt Jacquot has crafted a movie that is at once a romance, a crime thriller and a psychological character study. Set in the 1970s and shot entirely in black and white, the film focuses on Lili (Isild Le Besco), a 19-year-old art student living with her bourgeois parents in Paris.Although Lili is wealthy and talented, she is emotionally starved and restless. The majority of her time is spent engaging in affairs with nondescript men and skipping classes. Thus, when Lili meets Bada (Ouassini Embarek), a petty gangster who provides her with the love and excitement missing from her life, she feels complete. As a result, she becomes dependent upon their obsessive love affair.

Lili first sees Bada in a café when she is skipping class with a friend. The two girls are first approached by Bada’s suave “business partner” Gerard, who buys them lunch and extends an invitation to a dance club later that night.

Throughout this exchange Bada never says a word and is obscured in shadow. However, Lili catches a glimpse of him and memorizes his face. Later, she draws his portrait from memory; Lili’s infatuation with Bada is apparent.

The morning after Lili and her friend meet Bada and Gerard at the dance club, Lili and Bada consummate their love affair. The next scene shows Bada purchasing a clunky and extremely expensive bracelet, which he gives to Lili. Lili is immediately suspicious of how Bada came to possess so much money, especially because he had previously mentioned that he still lives with his parents, who are considered poor. Bada brushes off Lili’s questions and merely says that he likes living with his parents, offering no further explanation on the matter.

How Bada came to possess so much money becomes clear when Lili receives a call from him in the middle of the night. Bada and his accomplices have just robbed a bank. The robbery went horribly wrong and a bank teller was killed.

It soon becomes clear that the robbers are in danger of discovery and must leave France. Bada and his accomplices leave the country and Lili goes with them, already an accomplice herself. For a while, Bada, Lili, and the others live in luxury, going from Spain to Morocco and spending the money from the robbery, but soon there are complications and life becomes harder.

Overall, this film is successful on many levels. The audience is constantly aware of the characters’ thoughts and emotions, even though there is a minimal amount of dialogue. This effect is achieved through jarringly gratuitous close-ups of the actors’ expressive faces, especially Besco, whose face can convey both childish innocence and ravenous sexuality in a matter of seconds.

Additionally, the first half of the film is both visually mesmerizing and mentally gripping.

However, after Lili is abandoned in Greece the narrative begins to drag. Lili goes from one sexual partner to the next in an attempt to forget about Bada. These exploits are as forgettable for the viewer as they are for Lili. It’s also unclear why so many people are excessively willing to assist Lili, who, as previously stated, has no money and no form of identification.

All of these elements and narrative twists lead to a highly disappointing and anti-climatic ending for a film that starts so brilliantly.