Scott Reviews Sébastien Betbeder’s 2 Autumns, 3 Winters [PIFF 2014 Review]

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As the cinema moves away from its analog roots towards the inevitable digital future, a few particularly astute filmmakers are finding ways to reflect on its past even while they press on ever forward. I was not familiar with the name Sébastien Betbeder before taking a look at his latest film, 2 Autumns, 3 Winters, but I hope you’ll all join me in welcoming such an important voice. His film is essentially a memory. Three people – old college friends Arman (Vincent Macaigne) and Benjamin (Bastien Bouillon), as well as Arman’s new love interest, Amélie (Maud Wyler) – recall a crucial period during which their lives intersected and radically changed through illnesses, accidents, and all the turmoil that accompanies the realization that, in your early thirties, you’re tired of simply drifting from job to job and person to person. But what will replace it?

Betbeder tells his story by having his actors address the camera directly, placing different backgrounds behind them using simply green screen technology. As much as many modern filmmakers have insisted more and more on a “show, don’t tell” philosophy, Betbeder reminds us how beautiful it can be to be told a story, with a few dramatic scenes to enhance their testimonies. Sometimes his choice of scenes seem a bit odd – a one-off with Benjamin’s freewheeling sister hardly seems as important as others he skips over – but the result is generally immensely affecting, giving us direct access to their inner thoughts and private fears. The dramatic scenes are shot on a mixture of digital and film, with just enough rhyme to make it aesthetically effecting, and just enough reason to make it seem motivated without being dogmatic.

It’s a lovely little film, showing just how much can be done and how ambitious one can be with the typical indie, five-to-eight actors and a couple cameras production model.

2 Autumns, 3 Winters plays twice at the Portland International Film Festival – Tuesday, February 18th at OMSI at 6:00 PM, and Saturday, February 22nd at 7:30 at the Whitsell Auditorium.


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