Review: ‘Belleville Baby’

Mixing a variety of visual and aural materials, this lyrical, experimental, semi-fictionalized mood piece is a specialty item that will appeal most strongly to fests and the cinematheque circuit.

Examining her memories of a torrid and dangerous affair with a charismatic drug dealer she met in Paris during her rebellious youth, Swedish helmer Mia Engberg uses creative docu “Belleville Baby” to explore the subjective nature of memory, question identity and class, and illustrate the impossibility of saving someone you love by love alone. Mixing a variety of visual and aural materials, this lyrical, experimental, semi-fictionalized mood piece is a specialty item that will appeal most strongly to fests and the cinematheque circuit.

Framed by Engberg’s recounting of the myth of Orpheus, the dialogue track alternates between her diary-like voiceover and what purport to be telephone conversations between herself and ex-lover Vincent (voiced by Olivier Desautel), a man who suddenly disappeared from her life just after she started film school. Apparently he has been in prison all this time and needs her help to remember their time together. Her romanticized recollections bear an erotic charge even as they describe his violence and criminal behavior. Visuals blend footage shot on Super 8, Super 16 and cell-phone video in Paris and Stockholm. Dreamlike editing and Michel Wenzer’s evocative score support the ambience.

Belleville Baby

Sweden

Production

A Story production, in co-production with SVT, with the support of SFI, Media Plus Slate Funding, Konstnarsnamnden, Centre Culturel Suedois. Produced by Tobias Janson. Directed, written, edited by Mia Engberg.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, Super 8, Super 16, DV, HD), Engberg; music, Michel Wenzer, sound, Jan Alvermark, Owe Svensson. Reviewed at Gothenburg Film Festival (competing), Feb. 1, 2013. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- Panorama.) Running time: 75 MIN.

With

Mia Engberg. Voice: Olivier Desautel.

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