My Camera and Me

A simple but inventive and affecting pic about the obsession to film life rather than live it, "My Camera and Me" limns a guy who rarely lifts his finger off the trigger of a camera pointed at daily events. A crash course in the evolution of amateur film and video, as well as an exploration of how people strive to communicate, this is an ideal fest item.

With:
With: Zinedine Soualem, Julie Gayet, Julien Collet, Isabelle Grare, Juliette Andrea, Gerald Maillet.

A deceptively simple but inventive and affecting pic about the obsession to film life rather than live it, “My Camera and Me” limns a guy who, from ages 6 to 36, rarely lifts his finger off the trigger of a camera pointed at daily events. The urge to document and the struggle to connect are explored with considerable humor and a pleasant melancholy as our hero falls for a sensual blind girl. A crash course in the evolution of amateur film and video, as well as an exploration of how people strive to communicate, this is an ideal fest item.

Pic is one of the best to come along, since Atom Egoyan’s early features, to address the blessing and burden of filmed memories in the wider framework of perpetuating or healing emotional wounds.

Max (Zinedine Soualem) narrates a first-person odyssey into which his increasingly sophisticated home movies are interjected. After he was adopted by a childless couple, his parents conceived his brother (whom they clearly preferred) when Max was 5. As a consolation, an uncle gave Max his first movie camera — which he wrecked while trying to film a female playmate’s private parts in a bathtub.

The family house burned to the ground when Max was 8, leaving him with an intensified desire to record everything on film. The urge to locate his birth mother also percolated from an early age.

Shutterbugs will identify with passages as when Max proclaims: “I thought I had filmed God in the forest but, when I watched the tape, God had vanished.” But Max is no budding artist — his relationship to the camera is primal and pragmatic rather than interpretive.

Acquiring his first vidcam at age 16, Max fell for the young woman who sold it to him. His emotional education — and he has a lot to learn — takes place as much via his viewfinder as via his genitals. At age 26, Max began his first business, producing tailor-made videos for individuals. His clients, and a subsequent roving project to film farm animals, provide a fascinating window into human psychology, tapping both humor and pathos.

Max can’t resist following a blind woman named Lucie (Julie Gayet) in the street. When he discovers she’s a massage therapist, he signs up for treatment. Lucie is grounded in the world of sensation, and she and Max eventually become an item, but can two such different people find happiness together?

Soualem, who has a gift for subtle physical humor, is spot-on as a guy so addicted to generating moving images he risks permanent paralysis at one point by incorporating a camera into his plaster arm-cast. As the masseuse, Gayet convinces in every nuance. Supporting cast is well chosen.

Full gamut of amateur formats is neatly incorporated into the narrative — faded colors, rounded corners, scratches and all.

My Camera and Me

France

Production: A Rezo Films release of a Les Films du Rat, La Mouche du Coche Films, Macadam Films production, in association with Canal Plus and CNC. Produced by Santiago Amigorena, Yann Gilbert. Directed by Christophe Loizillon. Screenplay, Loizillon, Santiago Amigorena.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Aurelian Devaux; editor, Sarah Turoche; music, Laurent Martin; art director, Francoise Arnaud; sound (Dolby), Patrick Genet, Olivier Grandjean, Xavier Griette; associate producer, Patrice Arrat; assistant director, Helene Goussu; casting, Richard Rousseau. Reviewed at Planet Hollywood screening room, Paris, June 17, 2002. Running time: 84 MIN.

With: With: Zinedine Soualem, Julie Gayet, Julien Collet, Isabelle Grare, Juliette Andrea, Gerald Maillet.

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