PARIS–Helmer Bruno Nuytten takes a rowdy, aggressive approach to twentysomething romantic angst in “Albert Souffre,” a post-punk-inflected assault on the senses. Energetically lensed adventures of five interlocking characters probably will click with Gallic viewers under 25, but bittersweet pic about bucking authority while following one’s muse will be a much harder sell to mature audiences.
Nuytten enlisted mostly first-time actors and technicians to make the retroactive “first” film he feels he should have gotten out of his system before tackling the elaborate big-budget biopic “Camille Claudel.””Albert Souffre” is just as relentless and wearing as the Isabelle Adjani-Gerard Depardieu vehicle, but utterly contemporary.
Albert (Julien Rassam), who drives from Paris to Bordeaux to bother his best friend, Jerome (Jean-Michel Portal), is suffering from an excess of energy, a lack of sustained affection and an absence of career orientation.
Some viewers may suffer from ringing ears and quizzical expressions after being bombarded with so many decibels (courtesy of a dozen cranked-up Pixies songs) and the tireless antics of the freewheeling protagonist.
Albert is a nudge of the first order, a nudnik who gathers ambient sounds and dictates his experiences into a compact tape recorder when he’s not distracting more disciplined individuals from their appointed tasks. Evocative use of sound is evident throughout.
Pic will be touching and exhilarating to those who take irksome imp Albert to heart. But viewers who fail to adopt the title character will be faced with the frequently obnoxious and irresponsible careening of a self-centered brat who cajoles everyone he meets into coming out to play.
Hotel dweller Jerome is boning up for a crucial college entrance exam, as is his adorable g.f., Jeanne (Estelle Skornik). Albert shows up the night before the all-important test. In the course of a weekend, Albert will betray his friend, inspire the hotel’s African desk clerk, meet a new love interest and take the first steps toward growing up.
To its credit, pic feels like one long binge with the non-stop velocity of a continuous weekend.
In his maiden outing, Rassam is majestically annoying as Albert, who has a soft spot for redheads and an inability to grasp much of anything that isn’t orbiting around his own navel. Other thesps are all convincing.
Albert and Jerome occasionally communicate in a post-surrealist language all their own, which is translated with nonsensical subtitles. Subtitles are also amusingly provided for American model-turned-actress Kristen McMenamy even when she’s speaking in French.
Tech credits are good, with special praise for a consistently thoughtful approach to sound.
If it doesn’t get buried in the avalanche of fall releases, pic could turn out to be a rallying point for the generation of French youths that embraced the rebellious heroes of “Un Monde Sans Pitie” and “Dead Poets Society.” Then again, Albert might “suffer” at the box office as much as he suffers on the screen.