Un, deux, trois, soleil Movie Review

What's real in Un, deux, trois, soleil is the teeming multiracial housing project in the slums of Marseilles where Victorine (Anouk Grinberg) struggles through her childhood and early adulthood. What's not real in this feverish dreamscape of a film is just about everything else. The story seems to unwind -- and then tangle -- inside Victorine's troubled mind as she seeks the affection her parents can't provide in the back seats of the cars of teenage Moroccan gangs and in the arms of a petty thief.

And mon dieu, what parents she has! Victorine's mother (Myriam Boyer) is quite insane, and her father (Marcello Mastroianni) is a raging alcoholic who spends most of the movie hunched over a bar drinking pastis. They torment Victorine at every stage of her young life, and we see every stage, with Grinberg acting 12, 16, 20, or 25 as the scene demands. With just the change of an outfit and some altered body language, we get Victorine as a middle schooler in love with her daddy, as a married woman with several children (it's hard to tell how many), as a tough teenager looking for trouble, and as a preteen willing to give up her virginity to anyone who'll be nice to her. Linear chronology flies out the window, and you're never quite sure what you're seeing, especially when dead characters reappear to chat with Victorine or address the audience. It's a tour de force for Grinberg, although some of its power dissipates in the overall confusion of the storytelling.

For a while, it looks like Victorine will have some luck with Paulie (Olivier Martinez), the neighborhood thief and "specialist in love," who whispers sweet nothings such as "I'm going to change your destiny," as he reaches around to unhook her bra. Of course, like everything else in Victorine's life, the relationship is doomed. Fans of Martinez who remember his overpowering sexual magnetism in Unfaithful (Diane Lane is probably still shaking) will get a kick out of seeing a younger Martinez work his mojo on screen for the first time. The role won him a 1994 French Cesar award for "most promising actor," a promise he seems to be living up to, S.W.A.T. notwithstanding.

The teenage Victorine comments that "It's a drag for a girl to think that no one will ever be sweet to her." True, and it's a bit of a drag that writer/director Bertrand Blier won't give her a break as she stumbles toward a dissatisfying future that, given Blier's aversion to chronological storytelling, is revealed long before the film actually ends.

Still, Un, deux, trios, soleil (literally One, two, three, sun) is an unusual piece of work that has the wonderful performances of Grinberg, Martinez, and Mastroianni going for it, not to mention a fantastic soundtrack by the Algerian singer Khaled, whose energetic songs lend the film a true Mediterranean feel.

One, two, three, hands!


Comments

Un, deux, trois, soleil Rating

" OK "

Rating: NR, 1993

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