Heat Wave (Apres le sud): Cannes 2011 Review

Slice of Gallic suburbia boosted by clever structuring and a strong lead performance.

A promising debut for writer-director Jean-Jacques Jauffret that’s carried by the up-and-coming actress Adele Haenel.


Blending a finely tooled network narrative with a portrait of banlieue malaise, Heat Wave (Apres le sud) reps a promising debut for writer-director Jean-Jacques Jauffre tthat’s carried by the tres jolie up-and-coming actress Adele Haenel (House of Tolerance). With a vision of contemporary French angst a la Claire Denis by ways of a time-shuffling script a la Tarantino, Wave convinces until its somewhat overblown finale, but could still flow across waters to reach boutique distribs.

In a sweltering distant suburb of Marseilles, Amelie (Haenel) works as a cashier in a local supermarket, toiling away the summer hours when she’s unexpectedly visited by her lanky, dark-eyed boyfriend, Luigi (Ulysse Grosjean). At the same time, Amelie’s overweight mom (Sylvie Lachat) heads to the city for a mysterious appointment whose significance we only learn about later on, while an unknown old man (Yves Ruellan) goes about his daily routine, which includes shopping for groceries and – again for unknown reasons – loading up his shotgun.

Very much in the way that Tarantino revisited the same scenes in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, but added new angles and bits of information each time, Jauffret presents a series of realistic vignettes – checking out groceries, waiting for the bus, playing soccer in the courtyard – which take on greater meaning as the multiple plots thicken. Thus, Amelie’s grumpy desperation is soon explained by the fact that she may be pregnant, while Luigi nearly sets his father’s factory on fire before he decides to live with his mom in Italy, meeting up with Amelie to break the bad news.

The crossing trajectories of each character are captured with vividness by cinematographer Samuel Dravet, whose burnt-out color palette and use of wide angles recalls the barren suburban landscapes of Antonioni (especially in the factory sequence, which is straight out of Red Desert). Unfortunately, the realist vibe present during much of the story flies off the rails in the closing minutes, adding a stroke of tragedy to lives that already seemed tragic without the addition of such a familiar scenaristic trope.

As the forever scowling, yet immensely captivating Amelie, Haenel keeps the performance toned down to a minimum, expressing herself through the slightest glance or purse of her lips. Other actors are given scant dialogue, though each of them is literally stripped down for different reasons over the course of the film, channeling emotion via the raw image of their naked selves.


Venue: Cannes Film Festival, Directors’ Fortnight
Sales: Visit Films
Production companies: Explicit Films, Neon Productions, Jour2Fete
Cast: Adele Haenel, Ulysse Grosjean, Yves Ruellan, Sylvie Lachat
Director, Screenwriter: Jean-Jacques Jauffret
Producers: Nadege Hasson, Jean Stephane Sauvaire
Director of photography: Samuel Dravet
Production designer: Jacques Pellissier
Costume designer: Aurelie Bachoux
Editor: Lise Beaulieu
No rating, 91 minutes