Putting aside that this is a modernized adaptation of Chekhov's 1895 play,
"The Seagull" and taking it only for what it is as a movie, Julien Boivent's
screenplay creates a talky portrait of a filmmaking family as a vehicle for
romantic intrigue, sexual conquest, indulgent infighting and competitive
jealousy. One watches from a distance as the play on emotions flicker
onscreen, but with not much involvement.
The first image director Claude Miller treats us to is that of Lili (Ludivine
Seignier) stripping off her clothes and getting laid in a tranquil outdoor
setting. Her lover is the handsome, brooding Julien Marceaux (Robinson
Stevenin) whose parents own the forested estate they're on. Post-coitus, he
prepares for a full family screening of his first cinematic masterpiece, a
pretentious piece of spiritual idealism starring Lili, at this time a wannabe
actress as well as the director's lover.
The family screening doesn't go so well. Mado (Nicole Garcia), Julien's
middle-aged actress mother fidgets and seems bored. Julien stops the movie,
willfully interpreting Mado's unease as rejection. Brice (Bernard
Giraudeau), Mado's live-in lover steps into the breech to defend the film,
giving Julien the opportunity to express his pent up jealousy and contempt
for Brice's commercially successful work as a director.
After putting down all his defenders' efforts to console and praise him,
which Julien puts down as ignorant and inadequate pandering, the sensitive
artist storms off to lose himself in the woods and consult his muse.
Grandpop and 70-year family comedian Simon (Jean-Pierre Marielle) is
concerned, but not as much as Jeanne-Marie (Julie Depardieu), a house guest
with a not too well hidden torch for Julien and full-fledged empathy for his
By the time Julien returns at mealtime, he has put everything into an order
his intense nature and perceived slight is able to live with. But, insofar
as his role is central, the drama revolves around his identity crisis with
Lili providing the romantic-sexual tensions. As this is presumably director
Claude Miller's alter ego role reprising his first steps in a filmmaking
career when ideals and passions are raw and undefined, it mines the passions
and attitudes of the ensemble in residence for some drama and prurient
interest (and maybe a little payback). The 5-year jump in time for a last
act resolution shows Julien directing an actual film.
Primarily to fulfill the need for some lust outside the framework of the main
story, the handyman's wife is involved with the family doctor (Yves Jacques)
who provides dialogue about things beyond the country mansion's walls.
There is no mystery about why the title refers to Lili. Seignier's erotic
presence is like the elephant in the room, unignorable -- for her fellow
characters as well as the audiences she will entice. It may be his story, but
all eyes are on her, with her open spirit and awareness of her own
sensuality. She plays it for all it's worth... which is undisguised and
considerable, and provides the glue for a tale that could easily come apart.
This appearance should springboard Seignier's emotive potential beyond her
supporting role in the first feature that brought her to the attention of
American audiences, "Swimming
Stevenin, who looks more like a Russian (distinctly in the mold of Rudolf
Nureyev) than a Frenchman is a fine choice for the too-sensitive, naively
reflective artiste and an adequately ardent companion to his nubile
~~ Jules Brenner