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CANNES — Belgian director Bouli Lanners was a painter before he turned to acting and filmmaking, and there’s ample evidence of that background in the sumptuous visuals of The Giants, with lush landscapes and a wooded river setting that show the majestic beauty of nature at its most seductive. Three appealing young actors bring unforced charm, buoyancy and vulnerability to this coming of age story, but the film is held back by lack of meat on its narrative bones.
Written by Lanners and Elise Ancion, The Giants is a European take on modern Hollywood films about the exhilarating freedoms and jarring dangers of adolescent experience, such as The Outsiders or Stand By Me. The film is more focused on mood and on suggesting the inner lives of its characters than on their adventures and adversities, and its unvarnished depiction of the harsh betrayals and disappointments of the world provides glimmers of a grittier brand of social realism. It’s also slickly packaged, with the kind of high-sheen production values seldom applied to intimately observational storytelling of this type.
Two brothers in their mid-teens, Zak (Zacharie Chasseriaud) and Seth (Martin Nissen), are left to their own devices and dwindling funds by an absentee mother working abroad. Shacked up for the summer at the rural cottage of their late grandfather, they strike up a warm friendship with another unsupervised local teenager, Dany (Paul Bartel).
Toupy, Leklou and Gwen Berrou as Beef’s amusingly dour cokehead girlfriend provide the villainy in what’s basically a modern twist on a classic dark fairy tale about children lost in the woods. The teenage cast members could hardly be better, particularly the quietly touching Chasseriaud.
Neo-folksy English-language vocals and score by the Bony King of Nowhere (a musical project headed by Belgian composer Bram Vanparys) provides a lovely melodic complement to the action. And Jean-Paul De Zaeytijd’s gorgeous widescreen cinematography (the film was shot on Luxembourg locations, mostly using crisp natural light) helps summon elegiac thoughts of youthful summer idylls.
Cast: Zacharie Chasseriaud, Martin Nissen, Paul Bartel, Karim Leklou, Didier Toupy, Gwen Berrou, Marthe Keller
Director: Bouli Lanners
Sales: Memento Films International
Production: Versus Production, Haut et Court, Samsa Film
Screenwriters: Bouli Lanners, Elise Ancion
Producers: Jacques-Henri Bronckart, Olivier Bronckart, Jani Thiltges, Carole Scotta, Simon Arnal
Executive producer: Gwennaelle Libert
Director of photography: Jean-Paul De Zaeytijd
Production designer: Paul Rouschop
Music: The Bony King of Nowhere
Costume designer: Elise Ancion
Editor: Ewin Ryckaert
No rating: 84 minutes
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