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FILMS / REVIEWS France / Switzerland

Review: The Medium


- Emmanuel Laskar directs and stars in a highly unique romantic and melancholy comedy revolving around a loser who’s self-conscious about his susceptibility to the paranormal

Review: The Medium
Emmanuel Laskar and Maud Wyler in The Medium

"She always said that you’d inherited her gift. Can you really see ghosts?" Exploring of our own free will or forced by circumstances to explore that which escapes us in the underworld of the subconscious, or that which we protect ourselves from to avoid taking the plunge ourselves; navigating in a limbo-like state through the processes of grieving and forgetting; successfully settling scores so as to love once again and be loved in return… Vast philosophical and existentialist landscapes open up to us in times of pain, and it’s into a permeable space such as this that The Medium - a first feature film by Emmanuel Laskar (who spent time with the anti-conformist company Les Chiens de Navarre), which is due for release in French cinemas on 10 July, courtesy of Ad Vitam – immerses itself with utmost originality. Because the French-Swiss neo-filmmaker adopts a burlesque, slow-burning style in order to try his hand - like one of his main characters - at painting our "vanities", offering an allegorical representation of the fragility of human life.

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It all begins with a funeral in a small, sunny village in the South of France, and the ringing of a mobile phone belonging to Michael (Emmanuel Laskar himself), who’s the son of the deceased. The phone slips out of his hands, straight onto the coffin in the open grave, the loudspeaker activates, and the entire assembly learns that this young forty-year-old is on the verge of being dumped by his girlfriend. The tone is set, and the film continues in this vein, buoyed by a wholly owned surrealist sense of humour (nodding to Dali) and an infusion of fantasy, since the deceased (Noémie Lvovsky) seems to have passed on her gift for mediumship to her son, a music teacher who has no intention whatsoever of carrying on the family business ("Visits to the after-life. Satisfied or your money back"), despite encouragement from his sister (Maud Wyler). But an encounter with a seductive widow (Louise Bourgoin) haunted by the ghost of her drowned husband soon changes our nonchalant and badly dressed Michael’s mind…

Attempting a unique entanglement between the genres of renaissance, romantic comedy and peaceful fantasy (treated transparently), intermixed with an underlying parable on death, Emmanuel Laskar creates a hovering and paradoxical atmosphere infused into a straightforward story ("mi, do, re, it’s not rocket science!"), unfolding at a purposefully slow pace. Revolving around an endearing protagonist – the type who’d turn up with a bunch of flowers in order to win over his true love, only to find her in bed with another man – the film takes a humorous approach to exploring the banal complications life throws in your path when you’re stuck in the middle: between two loves, between two worlds – the material and the immaterial – between the past and the future, between desires for conflicting needs, and between yourself and another.

Emmanuel Laskar adopts an unhurried approach to playing with his pent-up character, treating Michael with irony and affection as he learns to accommodate ghosts as well as his own self, and to let go in order to escape his anxieties. It might not deliver on all of its highly amusing initial promises, primarily because of the very detached atmosphere it’s trying to create, but the film nonetheless proves to be an incredibly original effort: a blend of depth and light-heartedness that’s pretty rare in the landscape of French feature film debuts, which often attempt some kind of coup de force in order to make their mark.

The Medium is produced by Parisian firm Les Films du Bélier in co-production with Switzerland’s Alina Film. Kinology are steering international sales.

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(Translated from French)

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