The culmination of Triet's agenda is a simultaneously funny but devastating model of cinéma stressé, with Victoria placed implacably as focal recipient of literally all of the stimuli, all the aggravating stressors and pleasures that modern urban life has to throw at us. On this front, Léonor Serraile’s remarkable Jeune femme (Montparnasse Bienvenue, 2017) is a perfect comic-agitational companion piece. This guiding principle, with Victoria as our contemporary everywoman— blown in all directions, forever bending but never quite breaking— is flagged by Triet early on with a vital prop. Victoria, with a savvy flourish, reveals to Sam that most essential tool of all her various trades: her military-grade smartphone, built to be impervious to pressure, impossible to destroy, a device which Victoria will periodically hurl at the walls during moments of (inevitable) maximum freak-out. World, take that! For Victoria, like so many contemporary hyped-up humans, stress is everywhere and everyone, metastasized into the very fabric and rhythms of the world on-screen.
Hence, when Victoria confronts her ex for stealing her identity in his scurrilous blog posts, Triet stages their argument before a railway line. Two trains immediately come screeching along the tracks, shuddering and juddering like a furious mechanical chorus. Another lovely ironic manifestation comes when Victoria and Sam squabble over childcare duties, and her two young daughters record and re-play them with an iPhone app that aurally distorts grown-up bickering into shrill, dyspeptic Smurf-talk. "No more iPad, hand them over!" Sam demands; "Nomoreipadhandthemover!" shrieks the echo-retort. Later on, a pivotal conversation between this erratic couple takes place in a restaurant in front of an undersized aquarium packed with Shubunkin goldfish bouncing off the glass and jostling for space. This, suggests Triet with one eyebrow elegantly raised, is the modern state of play, the rules of the game, the new norms that we pseudo-sophisticated animals have created for ourselves. Life is friction and friction is life: we work, we parent, we play, we strive and fail, we flap away, desperately struggling to stay afloat.
Essay by Dr. Tim Palmer
Professor of Film Studies
University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Guest Curator, Filmatique