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Distributor Wanted: Illumination

By Chris Chang

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Acquamarine

Illumination Pascale Breton

The main character in Pascale Breton’s hypnotic debut feature has an unusual, yet intuitively spot-on name, Ildutt. As played by Clet Beyer he’s a very French, very shaggy existential antihero: a nowhere man completely adrift, even when he’s in his own ramshackle bedroom at his family home, ensconced in the dreary and forever-damp landscape of Brittany. A part-time fisherman, he gets more than a touch of clinical melancholia when, for example, it comes time to reluctantly gut his piscine prey; and he’s fallen hard for Christina (Mélanie Leray), a visiting nurse who tends to his grandmother. (When he takes a shower, about 30 minutes into the film, it comes as a relief to all involved.) Ildutt is well aware of his own debilitating depression: he tries both psychoanalysis and a brief stint with a New Age cult led by a messianic figure intent upon removing all traces of identity from a comatose cadre of dim-witted supplicants.

Director Breton excels in the precise invocation of place—particularly the nexus at which land- and mindscape merge. The sea, the shore, and the creatures that traverse the boundaries between the two are, in this film, her operative agents. Small-town folk (in general) forever dream of life elsewhere; in this particular hamlet, they don’t even bother—they seem perfectly resigned to their peaceful oblivion. But even with its dead-end inertial feel there’s a bit of hope here and, in the film’s conclusion, a quiet catharsis.

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