ART FILM OF THE WEEK
Aboard a large ocean-liner ferry, two strangers have an instant attraction to one another, involving themselves in a much needed, out of the ordinary affair. A French teenager (with Latin blood) named Thomas (Gilles Guillain) rushes onto the ferry, traveling alone. Soon after, he meets an interesting British woman, Alice (Sarah Pratt), in the cafeteria, and immediately the unlikely pair reveal a wild chemistry of romance between them.
Renowned director Catherine Breillat (Romance, Fat Girl) frames the couple in traditional shot-reverse-shot setups, as well as long uninterrupted scenes of conversation. Her signature style is of extreme realism, patiently building up to a climax of sexual bliss. Not very long after her characters’ introduction, they yearn for the other’s approval. Drawn-out silences increase erotic tension between the strangers. When conversing, the players attempt to out-cool each other competitively. As the tension increases, they wax philosophic about all aspects of modern life.
The young Thomas comments on the absurd fakeness of society while Alice concentrates on her regrets of lost youth and failed romances. They both lie to each other to gain acceptance. Thomas says he is eighteen, but is found later to be only sixteen. Alice falsely claims she left her husband recently. She is revelatory in her embitterment toward how hurt she has been by men in her past.
Breillat composes the film in very few scene changes, the large ferry boat’s various attractions being the central locales of the almost claustrophobic film that is more of a long-running intimate colloquy. Subtle cinematography foregrounds the crescendo of enchantment between the couple, ironically counter-pointing with tacky dancers and a pale magic act in the background.
Finally, the two lovers share a magical and arousing slow dance. Both at first unsure of their awkward relationship—especially the age gap—they eventually give in to erupting physical lust, thrusting themselves into each other’s arms.
Breillat is known for her unflinching depiction of sexuality at its most lurid and graphic levels (especially with youngsters), while still maintaining the line of picturesque, sensual erotica. She does not fail to titillate, entertain, and enlighten in this effort.
During coitus, the insecurities of the two lovers continue, humanizing the event to heighten the experience. The film’s conclusion is a true twist that more-or-less invalidates everything prior, the fling the couple shared having no future for longevity outside of the confines of this “brief crossing” on the boat.
Crossing’s Thomas is more of a feminine object in this particular go-around for Breillat whose MO is normally to grant a certain power to the overbearing male over a much younger and more vulnerable girl. As a result of this brilliant role-reversal, Breillat proves her talent as the greatest living filmmaker, bringing the reality of sexuality into the view of a cineaste’s delight.