Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr’s latest pretentious expedition into the outer limits of narcissistic sexuality, “One to Another,” loosely wraps itself around a true-crime story so it can weave suspense through its tableaux of naked adolescents frolicking under the sun. But uneven thesping (with one dead-on perf by Lizzie Brochere), assorted inanities (a semi-autistic clairvoyant as designated voyeur) and a narrow focus turn the potentially fascinating tale into a bland, perverse round-robin of teen angst. Opening June 29 at Gotham’s Quad Cinemas, pic likely will appeal most to those who prefer their nudity spiced with arty moral twists.
Like Beth Schacter’s far more nuanced, yet unreleased “Normal Adolescent Behavior,” “One” examines a close-knit adolescent group. Three guys — so basically indistinguishable from one another that the script insistently inserts their names into every conversation to reconfirm their identities — cluster around Lucie (Brochere) and her brother/soulmate Pierre (Arthur Dupont).
The siblings lie around naked, with matching strawberry birthmarks prominently displayed on their cheek-to-cheek posteriors. Lucie listens passively as Pierre spouts pithy thoughts about sexual aggression replacing political activism as a tool of youthful revolt.
Pierre’s experiments with his sexual powers soon extend to paying relationships with the town elders — including dim-lit orgies in upscale living rooms — and complete sexual domination over the other members of the gang. When he disappears and is later found savagely beaten to death, suspects abound.
Barr and Arnold have conceived their pic as a cross between a crime thriller and an incestuous love story, with Lucie as the narrative center, driving the search for Pierre’s killers. Unfortunately, however, she moves the story forward and backward in time through the rather tired device of writing out her memories for a shrink.
Although the mystery of Pierre’s murder is intensified rather than resolved by the revelation of those responsible, the killing provides a storyline for an aimless succession of sex and/or sunbathing scenes, which otherwise are only broken up by a run-of-the-mill rock band formed by the free-love group.
Tech credits are suitably raw, with lenser Barr’s association with Dogma evident in the immediacy of frisky outdoor scenes amid Provence’s flora, as well as in the hit-or-miss ambiance of the indoor tete-a-tetes and motley couplings.