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Laura Blum


Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for filmfestivals.com. She also publishes on Thalo

 


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“Nocturama”: Auteurism Meets Terrorism at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema

 

Paris is burning. It’s been set ablaze by a dozen disaffected millennials in Bertrand Bonello’s new film Nocturama. As the City of Light succumbs to dark acts, we’re left to wonder: Who are these young terrorists? How did they come together? What are they fighting for? It’s all up for heated debate, which is surely one reason why the Film Society of Lincoln Center and UniFrance included Nocturama in the 22nd annual Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (March 1-12). That and the fact that it’s a nervy bit of filmmaking about post-modern civilization and its youthful discontents.

Written well before the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan theater attacks of 2015, this stylish punk thriller is an act of pure cinema rather than any realistic exposé of political extremism. Not that it eschews the verité playbook. Structured as a diptych, the story devotes part one to mobilization, prepwork and execution. No detail is too granular for Bonello’s you-are-there gaze as the conspirers set out on their strange date with destiny. Some hail from the projects; others from more fashionable quarters, and together they make up diverse facets of today’s French malaise. White and brown, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian, working and unemployed--they defy categorization other than a shared urge to revolt.

There’s something hypnotic in their timed movements through the Paris metro, boulevards and constructed totems of power. Dialogue is at a minimum during this propulsive set piece, yet the tense choreography and discordant electro score scream trouble. So do the plastic explosives deposited in the Ministry of Interior, HSBC tower, Joan of Arc statue and Bourse square along the way. Read on below:

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