Saturday, August 18, 2012

Neglected Gem # 22: Une Jeune Fille A La Fenetre (A Young Girl at the Window) (2001)

An impressionistic gem, Une Jeune Fille a la Fenetre (A Young Girl at the Window) signals the arrival of a notable new talent behind the camera. The young girl of the 1920s Quebec-set film is Marthe (Fanny Mallette), who, despite a potentially fatal heart defect, decides to live life to the fullest by leaving her country home to study piano in the city of Montreal. There she befriends a group of bohemians, finds love and also learns of life's harsh realities.

Director Francis Leclerc is less interested in conventional narrative or sentiment than in portraying the dreamlike nature of Fanny's fragile life, which is endangered by any act of defiance, such as smoking and drinking. As Marthe, Fanny Mallette rivets the screen, running a complex gamut of emotions and engaging the heart.  Une Jeune Fille a la Fenetre is not as expansive as it could be (we never see enough of Marthe's grabbing at life's experiences) but it's still effective and memorable.

Shlomo Schwartzberg is a film critic, teacher and arts journalist based in Toronto. He teaches regular courses at Ryerson University's LIFE Institute.

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