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Baden Baden Review

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Between jobs, homes and boyfriends, 26 year-old Ana Och (Salomé Richard) steals a car from a Brussels film set and returns to Strasbourg to visit grandmother Odette (Claude Gensac) and decides to replace her bathtub with a shower after she breaks her hip in a fall.

★★★★

No synopsis could do justice to the episodic antics of the free-spirited Ana Och in Rachel Lang's highly impressive debut feature. She 'borrows' a rented Porsche from a movie set, canoodles in the shower with chorister buddy Simon (Swann Arlaud), tries to rekindle an extinguished flame with egotistical video artist ex Boris (Olivier Chantreau), flirts in a half-built swimming pool with Amar (Driss Ramdi) and frolics in the bath with visiting friend, Mira (Jorijn Vriesendorp). And all this while failing to notice that ungainly DIY store assistant Grégoire (Lazare Gousseau) had developed a massive crush on her while helping remodel her grandmother's bathroom.

Lang had offered a few insights into Ana's character in the shorts, For You I Will Fight and White Turnips Make It Hard to Sleep, which respectively saw her join the French army to get some discipline and break up with Boris to regain control over her directionless existence. But it's only after two deaths at the end of this freewheeling rite of passage that Ana finally becomes a grown-up. Her future, however, remains tantalisingly uncertain.

With her short hair, vests and shorts, Salomé Richard makes a compellingly unconventional heroine, whose wit, insecurity and unisexuality epitomises Lang's bid to locate reason and meaning in the random occurrences that mosaic into a pattern of life. Traces of predecessors and contemporaries like Agnès Varda and Céline Sciamma can be detected everywhere. But Lang (who is also a serving army officer) achieves a distinctive style, as Fiona Braillon's camera captures moments of poignancy, knockabout and surrealism with a deceptively meticulous naturalism that also characterises the performances.

Some may find this irksomely scattershot. But beneath the surface inconsequentiality lie hidden depths.

Combining structural and tonal shifts with narrative surprises, this feels fresh and audacious, despite being firmly rooted in everyday reality.