5 June 2006 | guy-bellinger
Another gem by Nicolas Birkenstock
After "Le Bout des Doigts" Nicolas Birkenstock, the talented film-maker, tells another simple story. Simple yes, but still waters run deep and once again simplicity is only apparent and there is more to this film than meets the eye.
The plot concerns Eddie, a young lost and found department clerk. While learning his job under the supervision of Hervé, his superior, he realizes how repetitive his task is. Nevertheless, there are compensations: very unusual objects are occasionally found, which arouses his imagination. And the day a red leather handbag is brought to the office and its contents spread over the table, fascination and desire set in. Eddie has fallen in love by proxy and he won't rest until he has found the lady owning the bag and shown her what he feels for her.
The first pleasure derived from "Pépins noirs" is to see a lost and found section work before our eyes. The description is very detailed, which is not so frequent in movies (it was only a setting for instance, in Christian-Jaque's excellent "Souvenirs perdus"). And not only is this aspect informative but it also enriches the substance of the film, showing as the subtle title indicates, a complex environment both plagued by routine (most citizens go to this place to retrieve mundane black umbrellas ["pépins noirs" in colloquial French]) and generating dream and fantasy (the black pip necklace found in the mysterious bag).
The second main quality of the film is its psychological accuracy. The summary could make you believe this is a fairy tale. Not at all. If Marion, the object of Eddie's desire could appear as the princess ( cf.her first appearance from blur to focus) Eddie is no prince charming, he is nothing else but a human being with his unpleasant sides. A "white knight" would never do what he does: visit the forbidden "cave" (the place where valuable lost objects are stored), steal a bag, follow a boy, terrorize him and his sister and finally get rid of the stolen bag.
The third and maybe most important strong point of "Pépins noirs" is its delicate but powerful sensuality. Eddie's sensations are so well translated that they gradually seep into the viewers' conscience until they feel either lustful like the "hero" or helpless like Marion. The climax of eroticism is reached when Eddie, instead of traditionally kissing the girl gives his asthmatic prey two sprays of "ventoline" in the mouth. One of the most troubling scenes I have ever seen.
One thing is sure, Nicolas Birkenstock is already (he is still very young) a great director, who masters his art wonderfully. We are all looking forward to his next effort, and why not a feature film?