Time Out New York Project: Issue #742/743, December 17-30 2009
Dir. François Ozon. 2009. N/R. 90mins. In French, with subtitles. Alexandra Lamy, Sergi López, Arthur Peyret.
François Ozon’s intriguing modern-day parable could be glibly synopsized as the “French flying baby movie,” though that is as much of a feint as the film’s opening shot, which elegantly misdirects our attentions. A visibly shaken woman, Katie (the extraordinary Lamy), sits isolated in the frame, talking to an offscreen social worker. Background details slowly emerge — her husband has left her; she’s thinking of giving her baby son up for adoption — that help to define her emotionally fraught, working-class existence. Then Ozon, playing on our expectations, cuts to a “several months earlier” flashback that suggests he’ll work his way back to this heartrending opening salvo.
Yet he never does. This turns out to be the first of several beautifully employed ellipses that signal a subtle shift in the film’s tone. For a while, it seems we’re in for a mostly grounded blue-collar love story between Katie and her coworker, Paco (López). Then after an almost-invisible nine-month jump, Katie gives birth to a child, Ricky (Peyret), who pushes the tale toward the blatantly spiritual when he sprouts a pair of wings. It would be risible if Ozon’s hand didn’t remain so steady and confident throughout, all the way up to a complicatedly upbeat conclusion that recreates the Christian Annunciation with the straightest of faces.—Keith Uhlich