Victoria -- Film Review

BOTTOM LINE: Wacky drama will thrill Godard-ites and bore everyone else.

Pusan International Film Festival
World Cinema

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It may have been decades since Jean-Luc Godard and company burst onto the scene, but for Anna Karina, the French New Wave hasn't quite ended. The iconic actress' second feature film, "Victoria," has flashes of some of the New Wave's more notable "conventions" and motifs, and a similar fractured tone, but because it's all been done -- and emulated -- before, her road movie drama leaves no real lasting impact.

European distributors and their North American art house counterparts likely will show considerable interest in this oddity; elsewhere, the stagey film will be a harder sell as it's gimmick-free, which could make marketing difficult.

"Victoria" is a straight-ahead family drama about fundamentally lonely people trying to find a place they belong within the confines of a fluid world. Stanislas and Jimmy make up a bad singing drag duo -- Les Lolitas -- with a cult following who are approached to do a tour by Louis (Woodson Louis), the mute, enigmatic Victoria's (Karina) driver. After a staged mugging, Louis bails Les Lolitas out of jail and takes them into deepest-darkest Quebec at Victoria's behest. Along the way, Stanislas becomes fixated on the odd woman and falls in love with a single-mother housekeeper at one of the many rustic cabins they stay in. Jimmy takes up with some jailbait at the same time, and everyone has strange dreams that require careful interpretation.

There's no effort made to hide that the central relationship is between Stanislas and Victoria, but the bizarre route to them discovering it for themselves makes for quite the retro ride. There's an oh-so-Gallic penchant for off-the-cuff philosophizing -- in this case through Philippe Katerine's memorable score and songs -- and heavily stylized bursts of emotion where characters spout sentiments like, "I'm devastated!" The film plays like a hybrid of Godard's mixed-format existentialism and Anthony Minghella at his most turgid.

Beyond a doubt Karina is the draw, pulling double duty as director and co-star. To that end, her performance won't make anyone forget her older work, but there are lots of knowing peeks over the top of dark sunglasses and over-the-shoulder glances to keep fans distracted.

Cast: Jean-Francois Moran, Emmanuel Reichenbach, Anna Karina, Woodson Louis.
Director-screenwriter: Anna Karina.
Producer: Hejer Charf.
Director of photography: Philippe Lavalette.
Costume designer: Eva B.
Music: Philippe Katerine.
Editor: Mathieu Aresenault.
Sales agent: Nadja Prods.
No rating, 94 minutes.
Production: Nadja Prods.
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