Boyd van Hoeij checked in from Paris to see the international premiere of Alvin Case’s American indie The Whirlpool.
In the French-language U.S. indie The Whirlpool from director Alvin Case, the female protagonist and Julie Delpy-lookalike, Agathe (Agathe Feoux), meets the pretty young vagabond Vincent (Pierre Perrier) and takes him to her motel for sex. In their improvised post-coital ramblings, she accuses him of being a "bourgeois culinaire" (translated as "culinary snob" in the subtitles) for craving a truffle and porcini risotto.
"That doesn’t mean anything!" says the pretty boy, before the girl goes on to list different types of American comfort- and fast food that she would like to eat. Extrapolating this unusually crude culinary divide — American versus French; mainstream and unhealthy versus balanced and sophisticated — to the film itself, this movie is clearly made for him and not for her — though ostensibly it’s closer to her perspective.
Case, who doesn’t speak French, developed the outlines of the screenplay with Feoux, who doesn’t speak English (as per the film’s website), though rather than turning their film into an audiovisual meditation that would largely eschew dialogue to arrive at meaning, the film oddly chooses to feature large amounts of meaningless and maddeningly meandering dialogue, starting in arty voice-over before letting the actors speak. Nothing seems to carry any weight; both characters are parentless, for example, which is treated less as a personal tragedy or fact-of-life than as something that makes these characters have the hipster-accessory-of-the-month in common.
Furthermore, there is little originality in letting Agathe and Vincent simply run free while the camera records whatever might happen: Perrier here reprises exactly the same unscripted role of a sexy-slash-dangerous drifter he played in another Franco-American indie from last year: American Translation. In both improvised low-budget works shot on cheap video, the purported meaning of the film seems to exist mainly in the head of the makers rather than in anything that occurs onscreen. Narrative concerns are not overridden by other factors such as character insight or aesthetic concerns, thus begging the question what the intended audience for such a loose-limbed, self-indulgent DV-reverie might be.
Neither arthouse gourmet nor multiplex bad calories, here are two characters in search of someone willing to sit down for a strange and unclassifiable cinematic meal.
Boyd van Hoeij
The Whirlpool (Alvin Case, USA 2011, 74′)