A flawed but generally interesting first feature centered on an intense, brooding performance by young actor Louis Garrel, “This Is My Body” (the title comes from the text of the Mass) is both intriguing and a bit frustrating. It establishes Rodolphe Marconi as a director to watch, however, and could fare well in some Euro territories, with useful ancillary also indicated.
Antoine (Garrel) comes from an affluent background. His upbringing and education have prepared him to follow in the footsteps of his successful businessman father; he has an attractive girlfriend (who, however, he can’t always satisfy) and his life appears pre-ordained. That is until, by chance, he gets the offer of a leading role in a film.
A small company, Horizon Films (the name of the late Sam Spiegel’s production shingle), is producing a film that is to be directed by Louise (Jane Birkin), a dominating woman. The entire production is in jeopardy because Lucas, the young man originally cast in the part, has committed suicide.
While Antoine agonizes over whether to take the role, he also worries about Louise, who has the reputation of being “a bit odd” or, as one acquaintance puts it, “a monster.” What really happened with Lucas? It seems he was gay, but that he had an affair with his director before killing himself. Antoine commits to the film, but that sets off a whole round of new problems.
Elegantly photographed by Carlo Varini in long, gliding, fluid shots, “This Is My Body” is intriguing and, for a while, successful in maintaining the mood of mysteriousness in banal surroundings. The main problem is the casting of Birkin as Louise; she seems wrong for the character of the predatory seducer of young men, and young gay men at that. On the other hand, Garrel is exactly right as the troubled Antoine.
The director claims to have been inspired by Jean-Paul Sartre’s “The Childhood of a Leader,” and so it’s perhaps no surprise that the scenes involving Antoine and his appalled family (with a nice turn by veteran Annie Girardot as his possibly senile grandmother) are the best in this uneven melodrama.