Going South -- Film Review

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"Going South" (Plein Sud) is a self-conscious road movie filled with beautiful people with gorgeous bodies and big psychological problems. The people and their problems are intermittently interesting, and their bodies always so. But while French director Sebastien Lifshitz knows how to frame a shot and is especially good at capturing life's threats from a child's point of view, he is less sure-handed when it comes to the more banal matters of plot and character motivation.

As such, niche distributors in different territories looking for some hot bodies, amply displayed, and some hot sex, of both the hetero- and the homo- varieties, might find something of interest here.

Background details are doled out parsimoniously as the film unspools. Sammy is heading south toward unknown parts for unknown reasons, and picks up the brother and sister team of Mathieu and Lea, both of whom are stricken by his beauty and intrigued by his laconic, sometimes even harsh utterances. The opening, very long scene shows the sexy Lea Seydoux, as Lea, doing a provocative dance number for Sammy and for the camera that Mathieu is never without.

Mathieu is gaga for Sammy, who at first won't have anything to do with him, but who then relents. Eventually they pick up a fourth member, Jeremie, to whom Lea transfers her bored affections when Sammy proves to be too preoccupied with matters from the past to occupy himself with her.

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These matters, which pop up in flashback, concern the suicide of his father, while arguing with his mother, which occurs while 6-year-old Sammy watches from the window. The psychologically scarred Sammy, we come to understand, has undertaken the journey south, 20 years later, to confront his mother, who's just been let out of a mental hospital in Spain.

Lifschitz captures the point of view of little Sammy and his younger brother with a powerful and honest directness, especially their fear when they're left with their drunken and increasingly crazy mother. However, he handles the present day story somewhat less adroitly, and the gay subplot seems present primarily to allow himself to indulge in a little wish-fulfillment. When Sammy tires of Mathieu, and Lea, who is pregnant and more than a little crazy herself, they're simply dropped from the plot and never heard from again. Sammy's story itself ultimately runs out of gas and ultimately stops rather than concludes.

Lifschitz has an uncanny ability to create a scene that rivets your attention with brooding atmospherics. He is also expert at selecting telling, fresh details that capture a moment in all its hidden complexity. His problems come more on the macro level of story and script, and once he decides to pay more attention to these, he will undoubtedly make a very good film.


Production: Ad Vitam Production
Cast: Yannick Renier, Lea Seydoux, Nicole Garcia, Theo Frilet, Pierre Perrier
Director: Sebastien Lifshitz
Screenwriter:Stephane Bouquet, Vincent Poymiro, Sebastien Lifshitz.
Producer:Alexandra Henochsberg, Judith Nora, Gregory Gajos, Arthur Hallereau.
Director of photography:Claire Mathon.
Music: John Parish, Marie Modiano, Jocelyn Pook.
Editor: Stephanie Mahet .
Sales: MK2
No rating, 90 minutes.
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