54th Chicago Int’l Film Fest #13: “Little Tickles” (France)

“Little Tickles” (France)
Directed by Andrea Bescond & Eric Metayer

3206443.jpg-r_1280_720-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxHow does one describe an indescribably original, difficult, funny, horrific, and heartbreaking film – a film that spans decades, defies category, relies heavily on dance, plays with the ideas of both the memories of, and therapy for dealing with constant child rape? I think the best way is to proclaim Andrea Bescond’s personal exploration, “Little Tickles”, an act of defiance and heroism. Based on a play, and on the life of Ms. Bescond, I’ll remember  “Tickles” most for its ability to successfully show how she discovered that there is a map by which life can be fully lived – yes, with joy, humor, and relationships – concurrently with the life taken by the trauma. And that many forms of communicative expression – whether they be artistic, relational or therapeutic – are necessary…not just one.

Her script is a series of remembrances told in the context of therapy sessions, yet, because it is film, and not stage, we see all these memories via realism. It’s a conceit that is normally butchered in the wrong hands, but here is accomplished exceedingly well. Her sense of humor, half used as avoidance and half used as release, is full and active. You don’t laugh just because you need the escape. You laugh WITH her, for her and with admiration.

The worst and most horrifying bits are handled with the audience in mind. By showing us the right before or right after, we, the audience have no choice but to fill in the blanks with the abject terror the acts engender – allowing us to better understand her emotional pain instead of then spending the following minutes recovering from the experience of observing. This also allows us to better understand how those closest to the child have “missed” it. And one cannot underscore the importance of dance in this piece. Movement is our hero’s main source of communication, which, of course, is open to any one of several interpretations by those around her, none of whom “get it”, mirroring that same clueless nature of both her family of origin and of choice surrounding her.

It is shot beautifully…in the French style. In other words, lighting techniques are held to a minimum. There is a slight sheen of haze when looking back to her childhood. This subtle touch by multiple Cesar Award nominee, Pierre Aim, works to heighten the realistic effects of living though those memories. But it’s not blatant. As a result, it’s the emotion and struggle that shine through, not the craft.

Ms. Bescond, as you would imagine, is a force on screen. Ferocious, funny, human and so, so real, it’s the best performance I witnessed at this year’s Fest. And Cyrille Mairesse, her childhood self, is simply brilliant. Her expressions doing the lifting, so as not to interfere with our interpretation of the adult behavior around her. Veteran French actress, Karen Viard, is Bescond’s mother. Normally I would say her performance is a touch two-dimensional, but in this context, it felt right on point…being, as it is, from the point-of-view of someone within the story. Likewise, her father, played by Clovis Cornillac, is in opposition to the mother just a tad too strongly, but he plays a large part in her understanding of her childhood, as well. Pierre Deladonchamps…well, he’s perfectly monstrous in the film, and it must have been very difficult for him to leave this character on the set at the end of the day. That said, he’s much better here than he was in last year’s “Golden Years”. Finally, Gregory Montel gives, outside of Ms. Bescond, the most realistic performance of the bunch as the work-a-day empathetic gentlemen seduced by our hero’s energy. A brilliant performance.

So the question is (and assuming the film/play was not simply a therapeutic device for Ms. Bescond), if the film is made as a blueprint for finding oneself under the shit of PTSD caused by rape/sexual abuse/child abuse, is it a film that victims should see? There can be no doubt that some re-traumatization is possible…or even likely…for many. Perhaps victims who have therapists they trust can have them view it first and help draw the best conclusion. Regardless, I think it is a work of pure art told with a distinct voice and, except for those mentioned above, it should be seen if at all possible. A remarkable achievement.

Written on 10/31/2018

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