Low Life

By Mark Peranson

A poetic, philosophical treatise about youth and the alternating presence and absence of hope, Low Life unfolds in a realm of black magic where, in the face of despair, love threatens to be all that matters. Recently separated Charles and Carmen are part of a confused group of friends in their early twenties intertwined in a kind of communal living.

This group of hardcore romantics walks a tightrope between idealistic adolescence and realistic adulthood, on one hand partying through the night, and on the other rushing to stop the police from evacuating an immigrant squat. At this protest, Carmen meets Hussain, an Afghani poet who is studying in France illegally, and the two embark on an intense affair.

But as Hussain’s impending deportation threatens to separate them, the emotionally heightened Charles remains close: as, he says, “Love never quits. It’s born or it dies.” Nicolas Klotz and Elisabeth Perceval build their haunting film on the burning embers of Robert Bresson’s Le diable probablement, even giving their own long-haired, semi-suicidal protagonist the name as Bresson’s. (At times, the film is also reminiscent of Philippe Garrel’s more recent 1968 reflection Regular Lovers).

But the action of Low Life is in a present-day Lyon, where the galvanizing political issue is immigration and Europe persists with an irrational siege mentality. Still, thirty years after Bresson, only the anguished youth have the ability to see clearly and resist.

Mark Peranson

6 août 2011

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