When the Sea Rises is a small film with small goals, depicting a parochial French sub-culture of traveling entertainers and their audiences. In its choices of style and subject, it comes from a different, more working-class tradition than what we tend to associate with French films. It's not cosmopolitan; there's no trace of the sophisticates of the New Wave and their inheritors. This is Cleo, from 9 to 5 - but the downshift in cultural atmosphere doesn't prove to be as refreshing a change as you might hope. Adapted from the act of French comedienne Yolande Moreau, the film often meanders into territory so provincial that it may prove mystifying to non-French audiences. One half is a standard girl-meets-boy romance, centered around Moreau's character, Irene, an awkward performance artist who can barely communicate when not on stage. The other half is a reel of cuts from her improvisational, commedia dell'arte stand-up routine. She stands alone on stage in a face mask, displaying bloodstained (painted) arms. She shoots water pistols at the crowd. She dodges hurled shoes. She tells a tale - usually begun in media res - about a "crime" she committed against an anonymous lover. To enjoy all of this film on its own level, without any knowledge of the French language or French culture, might be difficult.

categories Cinematical