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VENICE 2022 International Film Critics’ Week

Review: Beating Sun


- VENICE 2022: Philippe Petit signs a very engaging first feature film about a landscape gardener trying to overcome obstacles in the way of a personal and utopian open garden project

Review: Beating Sun
Swann Arlaud in Beating Sun

It is a small square abandoned by the public authorities, an area of tarmac surrounded by streets and buildings in a working-class district of Marseille, a no-man's-land in the centre of town. There, in an Algeco, a landscape gardener and his partner dream of transforming this space into an "otium," an open garden, a site without fences, "to do nothing, to stop the rhythm of the city.” But obviously, despite the support of the inhabitants, there is a world and many obstacles (notably financial) between a vision considered utopian by some and its realisation. Such is the heart of Beating Sun [+see also:
interview: Philippe Petit
film profile
, Philippe Petit's very engaging first feature (officially speaking, since the French filmmaker has to his credit two essays made as a maverick outside the system, including Danger Dave, screened in 2014 in San Sebastián in the Savage Cinema programme), unveiled in competition at the 37th International Film Critics' Week (part of the 79th Venice Film Festival).

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It's the big day for Max (the impeccable Swann Arlaud) and Gaspard (Pascal Rénéric): the results of a landscape architecture competition launched by a foundation. But it's a cold shower: they’ve lost and Gaspard, disgusted, throws in the towel ("two and a half projects in three years. Do you think we're making any progress? Let's face it"). Max, on the other hand, hangs on, encouraged ("don't despair") by one of the members of the jury, the famous local architect Paul Moudenc (Grégoire Oestermann) and despite a tragedy, the death of a skateboarder who fell into a hole on the wasteland: "I know that common sense would want me to give up, but I can't." The young 40-year-old therefore takes up a job as a gardener, since he’s got a freelance journalist wife and a young daughter, (clearing brush and collecting rubbish), while killing himself with work by accepting an opportunity offered by Moudenc: to create the outdoor spaces of a lounge bar built for former footballer Djibril Cissé (in his own role). But Max has by no means given up on his personal project and he doesn't hesitate to break the rules…

Anchored in Max's hyperactive wake and retracing a path whose hidden elements are gradually uncovered, Beating Sun offers both a portrait of an outsider that is touching in his obstinacy at the crossroads of an existence (individual ambition and civic solidarity, success and failure, individual and family precariousness and materialistic obstacles confronted with the desires for personal accomplishment, freedom in the face of the workings of the economic universe, etc.) and a fundamental reflection on urban landscapes (where developers prefer gentrification and luxury hotels with green terraces to large open green spaces for all). It is a mixture that seems deliberately modest and on a very human scale, but which in reality deciphers in depth many of the knots tugging at French society today.

Produced by Envie de Tempête Productions, Beating Sun is sold by Pyramide International.

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(Translated from French)

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