A woman ditches her hubby and falls for a younger woman, setting off a firestorm of dysfunctionality in what remains of her family, in Alain Tasma’s “Out of the Blue.” Currently playing the fest circuit after airing on French television in 2007, this nuanced production is marked by neither the defiant obscurity of many American lesbian-themed indies nor the antsy compassion of its Stateside smallscreen counterparts. Instead, it’s the sort of intelligently written, elegantly thesped relationship movie at which the French excel. Extremely accomplished, refreshingly straightforward pic might find a limited arthouse or cable berth.
Late for a dinner party, Marion (Mireille Perrier, the girl in Leos Carax’s “Boy Meets Girl”) stands on the sidewalk carrying a huge, awkwardly wrapped gift. Staring at her impatient husband Paul (Robin Renucci), as he sits behind the wheel making no move to help her, she simply turns and walks away. The scene is marvel of concision and clarity, and as epiphanies go, it’s a doozie.
Marion’s departure brings out a hitherto unsuspected nasty streak in Paul, who grows increasingly imperious. Their teenage daughter Justine (Chloe Coulloud) reacts with monstrous adolescent self-righteousness, with an extra dash of spitefulness all her own.
Marion’s teaching job already gives her a measure of independence, and her meetings with Franco-Algerian curio dealer Claude (the incomparable Rachida Brakni) lure her into more spontaneous ventures such as flamenco classes and antique-scouting trips to Brittany.
When a drunken kiss nudges their friendship in a more amorous direction, both women initially resist — Marion in shock at the idea of making love to a woman, Claude because she has sworn off relationships after her last Sapphic affair ended in tragedy. But their attraction overcomes their fears and even triumphs over the machinations and emotional blackmail of daughter Justine.
Helmer Tasma has chosen two extraordinary actresses who strikingly complement each other. Perrier is petite, elegant, quintessentially French, wearing every minute of her scripted 45 years with inner serenity. Brakni is tall, impulsive, vibrant, prey to self-deprecating insecurities and grand passions.
If the pic’s sex scenes seem overly decorous, Tasma still infuses his film with tremendous dynamism; his characters and camera are constantly on the go. Even Marion and Claude’s hesitations are imbued with kinetic tension. Nobody sits down and talks: characters linked by phone move through different locations, conveying not nervousness but a sense of arriving on the threshold of change — or, to quote the pic’s French title, surprise.