Humour lifts dark story of Les Fraises des bois
by Vladan Petkovic
02/05/2012 - French writer-director Dominique Choisy’s second film, Les Fraises des bois () [trailer] (literal translation, Wild Strawberries), after a break of 11 years (his debut film Modern Comforts won the FIPRESCI prize at Mar Del Plata in 2000), opened in France on April 18 through Contre-allée Distribution and screened last week in competition in the Crossing Europe Film Festival in Linz.
This low-key drama about two social misfits, featuring intermittent bursts of energy and effortless humour, presents a basically dark story in a light, but not misleading way. Set in Amiens in Northern France, the film is split into three sections, each marking a season from winter to summer. Gabriel (Julien Lambert), in his late twenties or early thirties, is a cashier in a supermarket who sleeps with men and couples for money. Young Violette (Juliette Damiens) lives on a big farm with her rich parents who seem to have a very dark secret that divides them, but is never explained.
Their paths cross when Violette’s demented grandmother gets lost after going out on an unapproved walk from her retirement home and runs into Gabriel, mistaking him for her son. In a dire financial situation, Gabriel, who also has to provide for his kid sister (the girl is so young she could more plausibly be his daughter), commits a crime and hides at Violette’s place. She also committed a crime, a much heavier one, and now two people with nothing in common are united in sharing each other’s secret.
The film’s most appealing feature is its humour, which ranges from absurd to subtle, but is always very visual and cinematic. Choisy obviously has a deep understanding of how to use the composition of the shot to this effect and his actors (both debutants) are excellently controlled and fit like a glove. Les Fraises des bois was produced by 31 Juin Films and is handled internationally by Ramonda Paris.