Review: Raising Colors
by Fabien Lemercier
- Hélène Fillières focuses her camera on a tenacious young woman’s entry into a physical and macho military universe
"The weak perish, the strong remain," "never reveal your flaws to anyone, otherwise they'll devour you." The military world is a closed and secretive place, where the rise of the morning colours is an opportunity for short uncompromising reminders about the fundamentals of the profession ("Values and Discipline"), where from time to time one can catch snippets of anecdotes about foreign missions (Afghanistan, for example) and where there is generally a hyper-masculine atmosphere punctuated by obstacle courses, mythical previous military feats, boozy outings to night clubs, daily waiting rituals and brief exchanges based on hierarchical relationships. In short, a universe that has very little of the feminine about it, but it’s precisely its feminine side that has seemed to catch the interest of numerous French female directors of late, such as the Coulin Sisters (The Stopover [+see also:
interview: Delphine and Muriel Coulin
film profile] in 2016). This time it's Hélène Fillières’ turn to tackle the subject in Raising Colors [+see also:
film profile] (her second feature film after Tied [+see also:
film profile]), out on national release via Gaumont.
1.63m tall, 23 years old, two years of prep studies and a degree in political science to her name, bright eyes and a twig-like silhouette: Laure (Diane Rouxel) has absolutely nothing of “GI Jane" about her. Following her mother’s complete bewilderment ("what's got into you?") (Josiane Balasko) and somewhat in the dark herself ("I plunged into the deep end without knowing where I was going"), Laure joins the Navy. Having become a Baer midshipman, she is assigned to the Navy Fusilier Academy as a “Tradition” officer in charge of assisting the establishment's number two, "the formidable Commander Rivière" (Lambert Wilson), nicknamed "The Monk" by his old comrade Albertini (Alex Descas) and considered "a brick wall" by the entire crew. Renamed "Miss," Laure quickly learns the place’s habits and traditions with the help of midshipman Dumont (Corentin Fila) and tries to counter her supervisor’s prejudices regarding women’s so-called “limits.” A challenge also in relation to herself, which is by no means an obvious one…
Raising Colors’ principal asset is undeniably Diane Rouxel, who cements her multifaceted potential role after role (Standing Tall [+see also:
interview: Emmanuelle Bercot
film profile], The Wild Boys [+see also:
interview: Bertrand Mandico
film profile], A Paris Education [+see also:
interview: Jean-Paul Civeyrac
film profile], and Marche ou crève). The film, on the other hand, is somewhat problematic, not so much due to the fact that its portrait of military life is a bit caricature-like upon first glance (although it’s not really, because the army is a vast theatre of warlike attitudes and behaviours that are potentially very different from other areas of life), but more due to the incredible lack of believable sexual tension between Laure and Commander Rivière (Lambert Wilson nevertheless does his best in a difficult role). A link to the plot’s core, whose artificiality nevertheless affects the film as a whole.
(Translated from French)
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