Day Break

Armel Hostiou, Day (Rives), 2011, color, 78 minutes.

ARMEL HOSTIOU’S first feature-length film envisions Paris as a contemplative landscape of haze and flux. Screening as part of a series of debut works by young French filmmakers, Day (Rives) follows three characters as they navigate the city on a single, autumn day. Pierre, the truant, traverses Paris’s beaux quartiers in an affectless daydream, his somber mien a pointed contrast to the euphoric escapes of Truffaut’s adolescent Antoine Doinel. Bianca, a Czech Erasmus student, drifts distractedly from lecture to her job at a call center, then back to an empty apartment, passing indefinite hours transferring between metro lines. Thalat, a Pakistani emigrant, scrapes by as a delivery boy, his afternoon an iterated encounter with Parisians whose language he cannot comprehend. Portrayed with sensitive, understated naturalism by amateur actors, the three never meet, save for in an undefined dream space—that of the film’s titular cognate, rêves—which features in three brief sequences. Structured as a succession of elliptical, undramatic moments, their days unfold through indirection. Dialogue is largely absent—Pierre, for his part, never speaks—the city’s ambient hum periodically bracketed by electro-pop from Bianca’s iPod, which we hear only when she does.

In Hostiou’s Paris, bodies aggregate but fail to interact. Rhythmic series of facial close-ups in shallow focus stress the penetrating, almost surreal, isolation of each protagonist. Pierre stares at the back of a classmate’s head, then averts his gaze when she attempts to meet it; Bianca makes repeated calls to the voicemail of an absent friend; Thalat struggles to communicate with an insensitive boss. Their connections with others thwarted, the three fold inward on themselves, choosing to dwell in interior worlds. Each finds pleasure in fleeting aesthetic details: the contoured wisps of smoke from a found cigarette, the daubed flitting of light across darkened water, or the dilation of warm breath atop cool glass. Their attentive look at the world around them seems a metaphor for Hostiou’s directorial project, which eschews ordered narratives for evocative, lingering glimpses.

Salut les jeunes! Young French Cinema” runs October 17–25 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Day (Rives) plays on Monday, October 22.