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2015年12月10日 星期四

Quand Je ne dors pas (When I don't Sleep)(失眠夜)

It's rare nowadays to see a movie in black and white. But I saw one last night: "Quand Je ne dors pas (When I don't Sleep)(失眠夜") It's the second feature by Tommy Weber (his first being Callao 2009), who co-wrote it with actor Mohamed Kerriche, a film inspired by J D Salinger's prize winning short novel in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye麥田捕手》about the which started the now common practice of wearing a baseball cap backwards by teenagers and some ex-teeangers. 

When the film opens, we see a teenager Antoine (Aurélien Gabrielli) asking for the price of a train ticket so that he may to go to see the northeastern coast of France, but he appeared to have no idea which town there he wanted to go to, nor what hours he wanted to go. From the converation, which was not well taken by the train ticket clerk, we learn all he got in his mind is the simple idea of wanting to go to look at the sea the following morning. He asked the clerk which town he could go to and was given four or five names, he just randomly picked one and then asked for the time of departure and then the price. When told it cost $30 Euros. He said it was too expensive because it far exceeded what he got in his pocket and left. He had a problem coming up with the money. So he went to Diego ( Mohamed Kerriche) a friend whom he knew was in the business of selling maijuana. He was given a number of packets which he was told cost $15 Euros but that he could sell it in the market for $30 Euros and split the profit 50: 50. 

The camera follows him around when he tried to sell it. He smoked a little of the grass himself and then wandered around the little town the whole night through trying to get customers so that he could get enough money to buy that train ticket the following morning. He approached some of his acquaintances, some strangers in the streets, in the bars, in the cafés and at the birthday party of one of his acquaintances Louis (Maxime Le Gac-Olanié). But he didn't make a single sale but in the process met first an acquaintance Max (Antoine Reinartz) who told him to go to Louis's birthday party, then a young gay guy Jérome (Stanley Weber) he met on the street who lived close, his own father, Louis's father  (Jacques Weber) and mother, then a girl whom he fancied Léa (Elise Lhomeau) and followed around but whom when they finally met at Louis' s party told him point blank that he was not good looking enough, got mugged by two rascals who took a packet from him but refused to pay and punched his face and kicked him on the stomach when he was already on the ground the moment he demanded them to pay and then a girl who fancied him Hortense  (Hortense Gelinet) and who asked him to spend the night with her, then his elder brother Arséne ( Romuald Szklartchik) with his two female friends at a bar they used to go go.

Quite by accident, he met a street sleeper who was trying unsuccessfully to break a bicycle chain of one of the bicycles parked at a roadside bicycle stand and without really wanting to do so, found that one of the bicycles there had not been locked. He withdrew it gently from the bicycle stand and gave it to streetsleeper who rode on it but fell after a few pedalling and dropped unconscious on the ground. So he took and used it and when it was to close to the morning, he told Diego what happened. Since he had no money, he suggested giving the bicycle to Diego as payment of the grass he consumed and the one robbed he was robbed of by the muggers and paid $15 with which he bought some "scratch-it" lottery cards. He  started scratching off the surface of the cards with a coin. He got lucky and won $100 Euros. He was overjoyed. When the film ends, we see him at a beach in the north east of France, happy at last.

It was a small budget film produced by Tommy Weber with his brother Stanley Webe. What kept the story going was the acting of Aurélien Gabrielli, who is completely convincing as the lost, confused, basically innocent and good natured, clumsy, willful, obstinate, pitiful yet strangely likeable 20-year-old unemployed and hopeless failure who doesn't know where he is going nor how he should go about finding out what he truly wants that Antoine was, someone who would talk to himself in a toilet as if he were two persons at the same time, someone whose dream was to be a Jack London road hero, someone who, when asked about his occupation by Louis's father, claimed to be a medical student to cover up his lack of success or an astronaut when asked by his brother's girls. The pace of the quasi-documentary was just right, not too fast, nor too slow so that our interest in what is going to happen next never flags. Shot in black and white in a mock documentary style like those films of the Italian "new realism" of the early 1960s' and accompanied by some ballads specially written for the film by Thibualt Chevallier with poetry-like lyrics which Aurélien Gabrielli sings in a slightly off-key voice, locating the film thus in a fresh space at once real and irreal, absurd and poetic which somehow makes it an oddly intimate and charming experience as the camera discreetly and sympathetically follows the futie, slightly desperate and mindless wanderings of that confused young man in a certain phase in his life. What kind of future is there for a young man like that? Will he have a future at all? Will his fortunes be entirely a question of unpredictable chance?