Open Bodies

A kind and decent 18-year-old boy explores his still-fluid sexuality in "Open Bodies," a slight but well-limned slice of life.

A kind and decent 18-year-old boy explores his still-fluid sexuality in “Open Bodies,” a slight but well-limned slice of life. Sebastien Lifshitz’s deftly edited effort has enjoyed busy rotation on the French festival circuit in recent months and won the prestigious Prix Jean Vigo for 1998.

The offspring of a French mother and a North African father, high school senior Remi (affecting newcomer Yasmine Belmadi) is majoring in commerce and man-agement, trying to be a good son to his seriously ill father and working part-time in an Arab grocery. He then answers an ad at school looking for candidates to appear in a film.

With the camera tucked up close to the student’s appealing face, the director, Marc (Pierre-Loup Rajot), auditions Remi by interviewing him about his interests and aspirations. Remi says he enjoys mainstream movies and would like to appear in one; he soon finds himself “appearing” in Marc’s bed.

As Remi is a bit of a cipher, the viewer can’t be sure how he feels about this development. But the camera follows him through the streets of Paris as he lurks in porn shops, has another surprisingly sweet physical encounter in a men’s room (with helmer Lifshitz) and also beds an attractive young woman (Margot Abascal) who dances on the street and seductively plucks him out of the crowd. Remi is mildly surprised to find that he enjoys sex with women, too.

Elliptical, fragmented tale traces Remi’s tentative explorations and presumed emotional disarray with nonjudgmental candor. Remi finds himself arguing with Marc and, in one of brief pic’s most interesting scenes, casually reveals to a buddy that his main squeeze isn’t a chick.

Lensing captures plenty of local color for an unmistakable Parisian feel. Plaintive North African-inflected instrumentals emerge from time to time.

Open Bodies

  • Production: A Magouric release (in France) of a Lancelot Films/Michka Prods. production. Produced by Christian Tison. Directed by Sebastien Lifshitz. Screenplay, Stephane Bouquet, Lifshitz.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Pascal Poucet; editors, Stephanie Mahet, Jeanne Moutard; music, Akhenaton, L'Orient, Imaginaire, Rob Dougan, Ala; art director, Valerie Mrejen; costume designer, Elisabeth Mehu; sound, Cyril Holtz; assistant director, Philippe Thiollier. Reviewed at Videotheque de Paris, Paris, May 4, 1998. (In Cannes Film Festival -- Cinemas en France.) Running time: 45 MIN.
  • With: Remi - Yasmine Belmadi Marc - Pierre-Loup Rajot Young Woman - Margot Abascal With: Mohamed Damraoui, Malik Zidi, Dora Dhouib, Karim Belkhadra, Rejane Kerdaffrec, Sebastien Lifshitz.
  • Music By: