Water Lilies

"Very Good"

Water Lilies Review


Revolving around two members of a high school synchronized swimming team and their relationship with a petite, peculiar girl, Celine Sciamma's seductive first feature, Water Lilies, unveils its evocative fever-dream in the Parisian suburb of Cergy. At the recent New Directors/New Films Festival in NY, Sciamma's adolescent enigma was an inarguable highlight among some very strong competition.

It's after a demonstration of Anne and Floriane's submerged coordination, in a locker room, that François (Warren Jacquin) encounters a completely nude Anne (Louise Blachere). Anne's frumpy body doesn't excite François, but the teenage girl is left exhilarated by the exhibitionistic thrill anyway. Outside the school, Floriane (Adele Haenel), the swimming team's enchantress, agrees to allow the skinny, nymph-like Marie (an astounding Pauline Acquart) into the pool area next time they practice, in exchange for a forthcoming favor.

The favor asked is to be a lookout of sorts for Floriane as she runs off with François. The beauty's inability to go all-the-way with François becomes a point of intrigue both for herself and Marie, who begins harboring a romance for Floriane. Meanwhile, Anne daydreams of François deflowering her, going as far as to stand naked, eyes shut, in the locker room for the lean stud to discover her again. As Marie's flirtation with Floriane becomes a mutual affair, the tension between her and the insufferable histrionics of Anne's crush tighten like a vice, especially when François makes a house call to Anne.

Things get rather randy, but the enticement of Sciamma's film is considerably proper. At a club, the fumblings of an initial kiss between Floriane and Marie fluidly mutates into Floriane dancing with an older man. Even later, as Marie gives in to Floriane's pleas that she deflower her, the entire affair occurs under white bed sheets. Sciamma's artistry is in the gentle coaxing of adolescent allure while keeping its inherent mystery intact. Is there a difference between Anne's obsession with François and the emotional entanglement of Marie and Floriane?

Though minor in scope and with few real intricacies, Water Lilies nonetheless keeps the car running in what is already a banner year for French cinema (its major triumph, Hou Hsiao-hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon, opens on the same day). What makes Lilies so entrancing is the way that the taboo of feminine lust isn't pandered to as an oddity but rather as an all-too-natural efflorescence. Beautifully paced with an eerily-consistent tone, Sciamma's mixture of hormones, romanticism, and bruised emotions leads to sublime and strange places unfamiliar to those who follow the straight and narrow and quite reminiscent to those who still don't have the whole thing figured out.

Aka Naissance des pieuvres.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 85 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 15th August 2007

Distributed by: Koch Lorber Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Fresh: 33 Rotten: 11

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Celine Sciamma

Producer: Benedicte Couvreur, Jerome Dopffer

Starring: Pauline Acquart as Marie, Louise Blachère as Anne, Adele Haenel as Floriane, Warren Jacquin as François

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