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Thursday, February 19, 2015

LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT (LES COMBATTANTS)


By D.E.Levine

A Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2015 Selection.

Winner of three awards at Cannes 2014, this first time directing effort of Thomas Cailley is a romantic comedy that pairs Arnaud, a young man just starting in his father's woodcutting business (Kevin Asais) with Madeleine (Adele Haenel).

They meet for the first time when they wrestle each other and meet for a second time when Arnaud is building a wooden hut in Madeleine's backyard.  Madeleine is tough on herself and everyone else.  Her aspirations include joining the army and she trains hard and relentlessly to achieve her goal.

Her impact on the mild-mannered Arnaud is so intense that this mild mannered non-combatant actually joins her on a two-week training session.

Both young people are rebelling against the stereotypes that society deems appropriate for them.  And,because of their verbal sparring with each other and the unit leader of the paratroop unit they join as temporary enlistees, there a great deal of humor.  The unit leader, Lieutenant  Schliefer (Nicholas Wanczychi) is funny, sometimes without saying anything.

Before sending the two trainees into the woods for mock war games. the lieutenant tells Arnaud to "get the upper hand",  True, as Arnaud becomes stronger and more in control, Madeleine loses some of her strength.

This is definitely a different type of film and perhaps that's why it attracted so much notoriety when it premiered at Cannes.  Co-written by Thomas Cailley and Claude Le Pape, the script not only places these two teenagers in a verbal war against each other but also pits them in a fight for survival against nature.

Not the usual fare from French cinema, this film is definitely worth seeing.