In My Skin review

:. Director: Marina De Van
:. Starring: Marina De Van, Laurent Lucas
:. Running Time: 1:33
:. Year: 2002
:. Country: France


Sometimes, going to the movies is just like being married to the mob. You have to take sides. Choose your clan, and stick to it. It's just a matter of ethics. I'll have real hard time going to see a Luc Besson production (cf. The Transporter), or respect anyone involved in one of them. At a lesser level, almost the same applies to François Ozon (Swimming Pool, 8 Women). This very classical French filmmaker vainly tries to touch the edge of a self proclaimed post-Fassbinder cinema for the mere pleasure of giving himself chills playing a lame game of truth or dare, offering results that look like a provocation to his family. Far out â In the end, his movies seldom go further than a bad piece of advertisement, completely fulfilling the expectations of French institutions. Bravo.

Therefore, reasons for fearing his long-time collaborator Marina de Van's first effort In My Skin were justified. Still, after seeing the trailer, you couldn't help but notice that both the subject, and what looked like its treatment, teased your curiosity.

The story of this self-mutilating woman filmed with crudeness and what looked like a certain realism felt interesting, and the Cronenberg sides anyone could expect from a filmmaker sharing the references quickly vanish.

Although In My Skin is De Van's first feature film, this is not her first work. Her shorts remain firmly stuck in the brains of her audience (her student movie showed her in a family orgy involving her real-life father) and her own body—its treatment and representation—have been a central theme of a oeuvre, In My Skin potentially resulting as a deep and personal achievement.

So personal actually, it would lack, what in the book industry we would call a serious editorial job. Mostly working on shorts, De Van admitted starting In My Skin in that format, but then realized she needed to tell more. The main issue is that she chose to tell a little too much and lost track in the middle of the job, making the movie more than twice as long, adding self mutilation scene after self-mutilation scene and trying to give a classical narration to what would have ended better off confided in the experimental fields she often goes swimming into. While the movie would have probably ended as too long, it would have at least stuck to a more accurate commitment and a better treatment. Not giving a definite ending tends to frustrate an audience that was expecting something a little more concrete to justify the everlasting conclusion.

The film balances between two themes and their onscreen representation: the working, social and love life of this girl unable to deal with her own urges—one of them being to reach a certain social status—and not able to deal with her second urge, the other theme involving scenes of self mutilation. While "social" scenes are reminiscent of Beauvoir-like depiction with its bourgeois microcosm, quickly appearing superficial and useless, the mutilation sequences bring you deep in the heart of early 80's Italian schlock cinema, showing realistic and extremely gory scenes. While the â exploitat

The socially conscious parts show that De Van has a real talent for directing actors as she pushes Laurent Lucas to explore new boundaries and pull the best out of Lea Drucker, an otherwise lousy actress, who ends up being quiet touching here. Unfortunately, the social situations they portray—which are quiet objective, un-romanticized and avoid falling into journalism—miss the depth that would have made them interesting and effective. Although this feeling perfectly echoes the coldness of the work (supported by a beautiful photography reminiscent of Olivier Assayas' Demonlover, one of 2002's best French films that exploited much more freely than In My Skin the way an author can lose himself in an overwhelming story), it ends up serving as a way to hook to a classical narration, a vain effort looking like an attempt to justify the repulsive second half. However, these scenes shouldn't cause too much controversy since hectic De Van, conscious of the experimental draft-like aspect of a work, had it screened in only one French theater. While maybe demagogic, the movie looks sincere enough to believe her honesty.

The scenes of self mutilation are of course ugly, sometimes showing real sickness from a director showing herself ripped apart, ripping herself apart and exhibiting a sick, wounded and skinny body. Her self mutilating game is reflected in the way she films herself in the nude scenes, playing with her body, her skin and offering sometimes expressions of a real sickness. De Van would probably love to show herself as member of a freak show, and she perfectly manages to do so—her scenes with Lucas end like a battle of twisted faces (Lucas himself has this particular prognathous jaw). Lea Drucker, who shares physical resemblance with De Van, adds to the feeling of abnormality, making this weirdness too real.

While not so interesting in a cinematographic point of view, as the game of torture should be echoed in the filmmaking process rather than going for a classical approach, In My Skin is certainly worth a look for its daring subject and depiction. The picture also forces respect for being a true but flawed personal oeuvre, where it could have easily fall in some kind of Cronenberg rip-off. De Van signs a film that is far better than any film Ozon has made so far. And that's a real good point for her and definitely makes her movie valuable.

  Virgile Iscan

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