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LOCARNO 2014 Competition

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Fidelio, l’odyssée d’Alice offers Locarno a journey through rough waters


- With her first film, in the running for the Golden Leopard in Locarno, French director Lucie Borleteau takes a shot at a skipper of a freighter inhabited by old and new ghosts

Fidelio, l’odyssée d’Alice offers Locarno a journey through rough waters

While Lucie Borleteau steps confidently into the shoes of captain to direct with a sure hand a film that she strongly believes in, actress, Ariane Labed on the other hand plays to perfection the role of bewitching mermaid in yet unprecedented tones. The French actress awarded in 2010 in Venice with the Coppa Volpi for the movie Attenberg [+see also:
film review
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interview: Athina Rachel Tsangari
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, has somehow unwittingly become the face of the 67th edition of the Locarno Film Festival. Her discreet and enigmatic presence has aroused the interest of the numerous viewers who had the opportunity to see her not just in the young and fresh Fidelio, l’odyssée d’Alice [+see also:
interview: Lucie Borleteau
film profile
, but also in the Croatian Love Island [+see also:
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by Jasmila Zbanic (screened in Piazza Grande).

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Alice is a sailer, a rather unusual profession for a woman but one which fits her like a glove. Without falling into the dead realization that a woman who does a “man’s” job should have male characteristics, Lucie Borleteau simply portrays a woman (and not women) who feels fulfilled doing a job she loves, one that’s perfectly suited to her erratic nature. Alice is engaged to Felix who awaits her on the mainland while she works onboard the old freight named “Fidelio”. An unexpected third wheel creeps in between the two, the skipper Gaël (the fitting Melvil Poupaud) who is none other than the young sailor’s first great love. In the cabin occupied by her predecessor who recently died onboard, Alice discovers a notebook containing diary entries, a slightly disturbing mix of technical aspects concerning the freight, sexual conquests and melancholic reflections on a loveless life. The diary in a way serves as an unexpected link between the life of Alice and the “old” sea dog, revealing to her aspects of her own life that are difficult to face. Torn between a powerful past love that she could never fully enjoy, the security of a stable relationship and her sometimes irrational desires, Alice risks going under, overpowered by the ghosts that linger onboard the Fidelio. 

If Lucie Borleteau’s intention was to analyze women’s desires, her first film would certainly not have had had the same freshness, rather she would most definitely have gotten lost in overly simplistic and stereotypical realizations about the so-called modern need for polygamy. On the contrary, she seeks to offer us the portrait of a young woman, based on a real character: a close friend of hers who entered the Merchant Navy Academy. Alice doesn’t claim to be the archetype of modern woman, Alice is simply herself, she follows her insticts which at times may be prone to caricature but, deep down are simply sincere. Fidelio l’odyssée d’Alice, as the director herself says, is “a variation on marriage”, the story of a potential amorous relationship that you can either identify with or reject but, in any case it (fortunately) doesn’t have the pretext of being universal and that makes our cruise on the Fidelio rather enjoyable.

Fidelio, l’odyssée d’Alice is a co-production by Apsara Films, Why Not Productions and ARTE France Cinéma.

(Translated from Italian)

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