Thursday, 3 March 2016

REVIEW - CHRONIC (MICHEL FRANCO)


Michel Franco doubles down on the formalism with Chronic, his needlessly spare and unsympathetic depiction of the lonely life of a care nurse whose troublesome character may be exacting a troubling influence on his work. Or is it the other way around? Franco indulged in a few nods toward Michael Haneke's work in his last film, After Lucia; this new film feels less like a respectful tribute than a silly, shallow case of appropriation. Here is a filmmaker who obviously cares about framing, editing and the process of provoking thought in the viewer's mind, that the true stage of his films' action is not on the screen but within one's head; why, then, are Chronic's carefully composed shots so banal, why is the editing so seemingly arbitrary, why does Franco insist on provoking thought as much as pre-empting it? His thirst for catharsis flies in the face of the stony rigour he exerts elsewhere, exposing it to be less an essential structural component of Chronic, more a stylistic whim with a direct debt to Haneke. That you do think at all, and that there is some evidence of effort here - these combine with Tim Roth's unduly sensitive performance to bequeath this surface-deep exercise in affected artsiness some sense of purpose, some level of depth. Roth's isn't the only good performance, and the film is undeniably moving - Franco is a master of emotion, yet seems bent upon manipulating his mastery with technical prowess he doesn't possess. And then there's that ending...