Iris in Bloom (En Ville): Cannes 2011 Review

Cannes Film Festival
Artsy French indie never blooms as a narrative.

This French version of mumblecore is too trifling an affair to find much traction outside Gaul.


While the U.S. has mumblecore, France has its very own brand of chatty indie movie best described as “navelcore”: the art of reciting pseudo-philosophical dialogues while smoking cigarettes and occasionally staring out the window. The latest such specimen is debutants Valerie Mrejen and Bertrand Schefer’s Iris in Bloom (En Ville), a low-budget love story between a teenage girl and older photographer which is not without its subtle charms – especially the lead turn by Lola Creton – but is too trifling an affair to find much traction outside Gaul.

18-year-old Iris (Creton) is a high school grad with no plans for the future, spending her days with low-energy boyfriend, Alexandre (Ferdinand Regent), or else cleaning train wagons part-time. On her way home from work she’s picked up by Jean (Staninslas Merhar), a brooding photographer who looks and dresses like one half of Oasis (the other half being co-director Schefer, who has a brief cameo). As any respectable contempo film requires, Jean’s specialty is images of industrial wastelands and urban ruins, amply on display in the shipbuilding city of St. Nazaire where the film was shot.

Thus begins a awkward romance that never really takes off, as Jean seems to hesitate between Iris and his long-term girlfriend (Valerie Donzelli), while Iris flirts with a few possibilities, including a school buddy (Barthelemy Guillemard) whose charisma is severely lacking among the other male characters. Young actors Guillemard and especially, Creton (who starred in Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard), provide the only real source of energy to the otherwise sleepy cast, who could have used a few shots of Red Bull before delivering their lines.

More a succession of scenes than a sustainable narrative, the direction by artists/writers/short filmmakers Mrejen and Schefer is too removed from the action to give it much weight, observing things with an aesthetic distance that harks back to the films of Antonioni. As if that weren’t evident enough, they offer up a scene where Jean actually summarizes the plot to The Eclispe, making viewers long for the time when such ennui could be turned into art.


Cannes Film Festival (Directors’ Fortnight)
Sales: Films Boutique
Production companies: Aurora Films, Le Fresnoy – Studio National des Arts Contemporains
Cast: Lola Creton, Stanislas Merhar, Adele Haenel, Valerie Donzelli, Ferdinand Regent, Barthelemy Guillemard
Directors, Screenwriters: Valerie Mrejen, Bertrand Schefer
Producer: Charlotte Vincent
Director of photography: Claire Mathon
Production designer: Aurora Casalis
Costume designer: Sophie Lifshitz
Editor: Thomas Marchand
No rating, 73 minutes