- With a dash of melancholy and a generous helping of charm, Hubert Viel smoothly blends together the colours of time, looking back over the childhood of a little girl hailing from a farming family
"What they can’t ever take away from me are my memories, those which belong only to me, those which I keep happily tucked away in my heart." It’s a journey into the realm of childhood and to the heart of a rural family in the late 1980s that we’re invited to embark upon by Hubert Viel’s Louloute, a work unveiled in a world premiere at the 11th La Roche-Sur-Yon International Film Festival which subsequently walked away with the event’s Grand Prize.
A return to origins and the crossroads between a ten-year-old girl’s endearing, loving naivety and her perception of her father’s concerns - the latter being in charge of a dairy farm that’s feeling the pressure as a result of the modern economy - is the subject which the present director (whose singular talent was spotted by way of Artémis, cœur d’artichaut and Girls in the Middle Ages [+see also:
film profile]) tackles both with great realist accuracy (amidst the world of milking sheds and tractors) and with a sprinkling of the "magic of illustrated tales", to ensure that the past can effectively "make us think about the present".
It’s in the present, moreover, that the film kicks off. A woman is sleeping in a park, a torrential downpour rouses her, whereupon she heads off (very late) for her class in order to deliver a distracted history lesson on democracy according to Pericles. Between classes, Louise (Erika Sainte) catches sight of Dimitri, a new teacher in the school who also happened to be her boyfriend when she was ten years old and when her father called her Louloute. A door to the past hereby opens, heralding a series of comings and goings through time, to and from the year 1988 and to the farm whose noises, odours (milk, real butter, cattle, manure) and happenings have left an indelible mark on Louise.
Surrounded by her father Jean-Jacques (the charismatic Bruno Clairefond), her mother Isabelle (the ever-excellent Laure Calamy), her teenage brother Kévin (Rémi Baranger), her little sister Nathalie (Hannah Castel Chiche) and the family dog Soldier, Louloute (Alice Henri) asks herself a lot of questions ("why do birds have two wings instead of four?"), watches cartoons, recites the History of the Gauls, fetches eggs, makes crêpes, daydreams on her bed and even hopes that Jesus will send her a sign to makes things a little clearer. In the meantime, she lovingly cleans her beloved father’s cows, runs headlong into adventure in the countryside, wanders the hallways instead of sleeping and overhears adult conversations she shouldn’t, which reveal an ever-worsening situation of debt, big companies’ monopoly over the price of milk, European competition and work-related exhaustion…
Incontestably true-to-life and peppered with the smaller details characterising family life on a farm over thirty years ago (with its typical TV programmes, meals and photo albums), Louloute is an endearing film which sees it’s main character’s imagination (bordering on oneirism) injected into an economic and social analysis. And whilst the poignancy of the latter only surfaces in increments, its dramas, for their part, remain firmly off-screen. It’s a touchingly humble and charmingly gentle approach which Hubert Viel deploys with great formal skill (particularly in his management of flashbacks and of Frédéric Alvarez’s music), beneath an outer veil of modesty and simplicity, and despite the film’s tiny budget. It’s an excellent work to prevent us from forgetting the textures of the past.
(Translated from French)
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