‘Blind Date’: COLCOA Review
Clovis Cornillac writes and directs his first feature, co-starring opposite Melanie Bernier
Cesar-winning actor Clovis Cornillac’s directing debut is a highly contrived romantic comedy in which opposites emphatically attract, but just as resolutely remain practically anonymous. Upending expectations, Cornillac tweaks the genre so that his lead characters never even exchange names, instead referring to one another as “Machin” and “Machine” throughout their romance.
World premiering at the COLCOA festival, Blind Date won the feature film audience award, which could boost its profile in the US and other foreign markets, although the impact on domestic play would seem negligible.
As Cornillac and his three co-writers (including his wife and co-star Lilou Fogli) envision this tale, Machin (Clovis Cornillac) is an obsessive builder of highly sophisticated puzzle games. Somewhere in a chic Paris arrondissement, he toils away in his secluded apartment, requiring complete silence to perform his complex calculations and intricate tinkering. His need for solitude is so great in fact, that he’s made a practice of repeatedly frightening off any tenants attempting to move into the adjacent flat. So when a pretty young musician named Machine (Melanie Bernier) arrives with her piano in tow, his amateur haunted-house ruse very nearly succeeds in scaring her away. She’s determined to stick it out, however, as she prepares for a crucial upcoming classical music competition, even though the noise problem between the two apartments is beyond distracting.
Once she’s able to make contact through the paper-thin walls with her socially antagonistic neighbor, they succeed in negotiating working hours that won’t disrupt her piano practice or interfere with his creative time. Despite his misanthropic tendencies, Machin manages to endear himself with some sage advice regarding Machine’s keyboard techniques, helping her discover an entirely new interpretation of Chopin that frees her up artistically, so it’s not before long before they’re bonding in their own idiosyncratic way. Their eventual decision to “date” without ever actually meeting in person, communicating through their shared apartment wall, strikes their friends as quite strange, but it works for Machin and Machine, who both prioritize on their creative pursuits. As the deadline for Machin to complete his project closes in, however, and Machine's recital approaches, the escalating stress forces both of them to question their unusual choices.
Multi-tasking among screenwriting, acting and directing duties, Cornillac remains most persuasive in front of the camera. In order to maintain the integrity of the carefully staged principal action, most of the scenes are shot on excessively contrived sets strenuously designed to express the artistic individuality of the main characters. Machin’s apartment is carefully cluttered with tools and supplies for building his complex puzzles, whereas Machine’s living space remains consciously clear of unattractive junk that might distract from her focus on beautiful music.
This lack of naturalism pervades the performances as well, with Cornillac and Bernier unreasonably restrained by the stereotypical attributes of their characters. Both are easily likable actors however, so their interactions are enjoyable regardless of the film’s sometimes forced sentimentality, as Machin goes from reclusive to sociable and Machine sheds her hesitant attitude. Production quality remains excellent overall, with Thierry Pouget’s warm cinematography lending the proceedings a relentlessly upbeat tone throughout.
Production company: Cine Nomine
Cast: Clovis Cornillac, Melanie Bernier, Lilou Fogli, Philippe Duquesne, Gregoire Oestermann
Director: Clovis Cornillac
Screenwriters: Lilou Fogli, Clovis Cornillac, Tristan Schulmann, Mathieu Oullion
Producers: Gregoire Lassalle, Pierre Forette, Thierry Wong
Director of photography: Thierry Pouget
Editor: Jean-Francois Elie
Music: Guillaume Roussel
Sales: Other Angle Pictures
No rating, 100 minutes