Scripted, helmed and shot on DV and Super-8 by 23-year-old Raphael Frydman, “Adieu Babylone” is a jubilant, continent-hopping road movie split between Paris and the Americas. A visually bracing ode to impulsive behavior, pic follows a plucky teen and mild-mannered young high school teacher on their separate, near-penniless odysseys. With minimal dialogue and maximum momentum, Frydman shows a real penchant for forward movement and abrupt, vibrant storytelling. Fests eager to showcase fresh talent have a natural entry here.
At age 20, when Frydman applied to the directing program at Gaul’s state film academy FEMIS, he finished sixth on the first-five-only entrance exam. So he interned briefly on two French features instead, including Laetitia Masson’s “For Sale” (1998), whose producer, Francois Cuel, offered to bankroll Frydman’s first 35mm short. Frydman said he could make a DV feature for the same investment –and this is it.
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Anouk (Isild Le Besco) works as a motorcycle pizza delivery girl while studying for her college entrance exam. Her crush on teacher Laurel (Emmanuel Faventines) — conveyed by her breathless pursuit of him on public transportation — so freaks him out that he flees straight to the airport and hops on the first available flight, which happens to be to Brazil.
After bringing a local woman back to his hotel, Laurel wakes up with no clothes and no wallet. The hotel gives him discarded duds and a pair of Rollerblades and he sets out to work his way back to France.
Anouk pines for him in Paris but flips out when he returns months later, apparently shell-shocked from living hand to mouth. When she gets a huge cash payment for a pizza order, Anouk makes a beeline for the airport and flies to Mexico, still clad in her yellow delivery overalls, to complete Laurel’s odyssey.
Le Besco displays a fearless, gung-ho energy whatever the situation. As Anouk makes her way to New York — including via a lift to San Francisco from a Frenchman (played by Frydman) — she records audiotapes and shoots super-8 footage of her adventures, which she sends to Laurel, who’s recovering back in Paris.
Never predictable pic was largely improvised and has an appealing docu feel, yet hangs together better than many a fully scripted venture. Song-based score is well-calibrated, and the sound design intelligent. If Frydman can manage this well on a shoestring, his future looks promising indeed.