Within the Venice Film Festival sidebar of Giornate degli Autori, there was one film that really caught our eye. Madeleine Collins is described as a "feminist Hitchcockian thriller" and French filmmaker Antoine Barraud doesn't let the audience down, even carrying such high expectation. The film, starring Virginie Efira -- who also served on the main Competition jury during the festival -- along with her wonderfully handsome duo of co-stars Bruno Salomone and Quim Gutiérrez, is one that leaves the viewer with visions of its elegance, but also constantly replaying the haunting story in our minds.
And if that wasn't enough, within the film, there is a cameo as well, what could have been a side character never fully developed and easily dismissed as a plot trick, played by Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid. Therein, in a role that is on screen less than three minutes total, lies our new prince charming slash fairy godmother, but for these feminist, Covid-19 pandemic, #MeToo times.
He turns the idea of a white knight right on its head and we like it.
Kurt, Lapid's character is rough, a hustler, a low-level criminal with an unnerving demeanor and even more spine-chilling appearance. His presence shouts "Danger!" at every turn, yet Efira's Judith trusts him. She has to, she needs him and I won't give the plot away by explaining why.
When she steps into Kurt's "office," a dark dungeon of lonely single life for the kind of man who is featured in stories of defaced heroes loved by beautiful women -- think Phantom of the Opera -- we almost feel afraid for her. But he eases her worries, explaining he made sure she would be back there because, he tells her, "I want you to see I’m a person, not just some guy. For just a second. I can’t aspire to a woman like you. But I just wanted to see you."
At one point, he says to her, at the height of his romanticism: “some men invite you to dinner. I invite you to be whoever you want.” And he does live up to his promise. All the while, making sure Barraud's haunting film stands up to its premise.
In his other life, Lavid is an award winning filmmaker, one whose latest oeuvre Ahed's Knee is making the rounds of prestigious festivals around the world, after winning the 2021 Cannes Jury Prize. After TIFF, in fact, it will be in the line-up of the upcoming NY Film Festival at the end of this month. The film is also nominated for 8 Ophir Awards, the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars.
His previous works include the 2014 film The Kindergarten Teacher and Synonyms, the 2019 critically acclaimed, Golden Bear winning film he wrote with his father, Haim Lapid.
Madeleine Collins is set to release in France in late December and, we hope, in more countries around the world soon.