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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Jérémy Clapin "Skhizein" (2008)







Made in 2008, Jérémy Clapin’s Skhizein was commended in the Oscar deliberations whilst lesser films were nominated. Had I not bungled my own reviews here last year Jérémy’s remarkable film would without question have made my top ten, and at the higher end. (I deferred writing a review as at that exact time Jason Sondhi from Short of the Week had written a typically intelligent article.) Whereas Skhizein undoubtedly has comedic elements, I found it mainly touching, a metaphor for a range of mental or physical illnesses - in fact it refers to one specific condition suggested by the title. In his earlier movie, Une Histoire Vertébrale, the French director created two characters with physical abnormalities, a broadly comic tale that nevertheless made its point with compassion. In this later movie Henry is distanced 91 centimetres from himself after being hit by a meteorite. Speaking to his psychiatrist, the character explains his problems coping with the affliction. We see the care with which the man has organised his life to cater for those vital centimetres. Henry’s world is one of blueprints, shadowing the real world with delicate, measured lines. Of course there is humour as he travels outside his car or urinates to one side of the toilet. But essentially, through the conceit, Jérémy’s 13 minute film reveals the loneliness of a man distanced and alienated from society, losing his job, jettisoning friends and relatives, or being discarded. Appropriately, the colours look like they have been left overnight in the rain, whilst the director cleverly deploys his 2D character in a 3D world. A number of qualities appear unrewarded by those who make judgements on matters Academical. First is the telling humour and story-telling from the moment Henry appears to be floating in the surgery. But perhaps more notable is the sheer intellectual feat of a director rigorously pursuing a central tenet, exploring a fractured world with a remarkable coherence.

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