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Thursday, 26 July 2012

36ème sous-sol (2010)

Director: Pierre-Henri Debies
Stars: Julien Guibert, Stéphanie Kern-Siebering, Eduoard Audouin and Anne Courpron
The lift is small enough to be packed by four people and it has a long way to go. It's descending steadily but we come in at the 58th floor and it's not the quickest lift in the world. It doesn't take us long to work out why these people are in it and where they're going, especially with the aid of flashbacks, but it takes them quite a bit longer because that's the point of the story. The picture is therefore at once entirely predictable and magnificently realised. If there are surprises, they're in the details, not the big picture. The four are very different and very well portrayed, well beyond the apparent experience of the actors involved. Julien Guilbert plays slick and self assured Samy, used to being in charge. Anne Courpron makes Josie impatient and annoying but somehow a little sympathetic nonetheless, though only a little, because Edouard Audouin, as her brother Henri, has dealt with her long enough to have become even more impatient and annoying than she is.

It's testament to their skill as actors that they spend most of the thirteen minutes this French short runs fleshing out their characters with nuances, none more so than the fourth in the lift. Stéphanie Kern-Siebering is a joy to watch as Lili. There's one lingering shot where she transforms from quiet laughter to worry, all done without words and told through facial expression and inner feeling. It's great acting but while she's apparently the most experienced of the four actors, that doesn't mean she has a long filmography behind her. I won't explain the back stories of the characters, because that would spoil the only revelations this film has. 36ème sous-sol, which translates roughly to 36th Basement, though I'm not sure precisely why, is far from a surprising picture. In fact, the most surprising thing about it is how well it turns out given how inherently unsurprising it all is. Beyond the acting, it's shot beautifully, the effects are good and it does exactly what it aims to do.

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