Judge Diane Wild's mind strayed while she watched this film, but the compelling extras brought her back.
"A funny sort of prison."—Odile, speaking about the house
During World War II, a young widow, Odile (Emmanuelle Béart, La Belle Noiseuse), flees Paris with her two children as the Germans encroach on the capital city. Stopped by an air raid that incinerates their car, they flee into the woods accompanied by a mysterious teen, Yvan (Gaspard Ulliel, A Very Long Engagement), they met on the way.
At first distrustful of the crude young man, Odile and family begin to rely on his survival skills. He breaks into an abandoned home for their shelter and hunts for their meals, bonds with 13-year-old Philippe and little sister Cathy, and begins an uneasy dance of mutual mistrust and desire with Odile.
Strayed is not a war film in any conventional sense. Archival sepia-toned images of the war are interspersed with the story, but it is simply the incubator that allows a gorgeous, educated young widow to come together with a brutish, illiterate teen in an isolated house. Odile is both drawn to and repelled by the boy; she wants him to leave but needs him to stay; she mothers him and flirts with him by turns.
Strayed fosters a sinister air by making Yvan's actions and motives suspect—we see him cut the phone cord and hide the radio before allowing the family entrance into their stolen shelter, for example, though the other characters are left in the dark.
Strayed relies on small, detailed moments to create a subtle and evocative picture of want and need, but the emotional detachment with which director André Téchiné (Wild Reeds) approaches the material diffuses some of the erotic potential.
However, Beart and Ulliel are wonderfully ambiguous, and Grégoire Leprince-Rinquet plays young Philippe with a natural gravity that is rare in a child actor. The low-level tension that permeates the film draws the audience in until the end, though that detachment causes its impact to waft away shortly after the credits roll.
Wellspring Media's presentation of the DVD is excellent. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track captures the initial bomb drops and later environmental sound effects in effective surround sound. The image is crisp, with glorious color and only slight instances of grain.
The extras are fabulous. There is an in-depth interview with director Téchiné accompanied by Ulliel, and another with Gilles Perrault, the writer of the book the film was based on, who gives some wonderful historical context to the story; his short novel "The Boy with Grey Eyes" used elements of his own experience of the 1940 exodus, when he was nine years old. These extras add considerable depth to a film that was too insubstantial for me. In fact, the extra content is what sticks to my mind now, while the film itself is fading to a pleasantly dissonant collection of images and emotions.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Wellspring Media
• Interview with director Andre Techine and Gaspard Ulliel
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