›› Ma Vie - Ma Vraie Vie à Rouen - aka My Life on Ice
a video camera obsessed teenagers coming out experience
Welcome to the world of Étienne; a good looking French teenager who spends his days divided between school and his preparations for the Open Figure Skating Championships. That is, until the gift of a digital video camera for his 16th birthday presents him with the opportunity to record the world around him.
And boy does he jump at the chance, seizing the moment to record the thoughts and anxieties of his grandmother and single mother Caroline, to the ups and downs of his aspiring actor best friend Ludovic. Yet as days turn into weeks, the camera and the man behind it seemingly merge into one, given the two are never apart, switched on to record video diary sessions and turned on, in more ways than one, in the direction of his male geography teacher Laurent.
Yet the object of one's affection can equally be the love of another and complications arise for Étienne when Laurent becomes the man in the life of his mother. Pouring his frustrations into his camera work, he films himself, his body and even a fellow skater in a state of undress, becoming more and more obsessed with the male form. But in
capturing his emerging homosexuality on film, has Étienne the confidence to acknowledge it when the camera is finally turned off?
Shot directly on digital video and later transferred to film stock, the natural performances from the cast belie the fact that this feature was shot to script. Thus it is to the credit of both cast and crew that the often-fragmented sequences seen here come across as the raw footage one would expect a video camera obsessed teenager to produce. Yet this method of filming does suffer a major drawback. For in looking at the world from behind the viewfinder, the lead character is for the majority of the time off-screen, inspite of a number of direct to camera sequences racing to the rescue of his characterisation. As a consequence, it is the audience who piece together the gay element of the film, long before Étienne's sexual identity is addressed by the teenager himself.
Such however is not a reflection on the work of Jimmy Tavares, rather it is indicative of the film medium itself and one that try as it may, gives way to a closing scene so clearly contrived so as to allow Étienne to embrace his true sexual orientation. Then again, here renowned French directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau have
gone out of their way to breathe new life into the often stale coming out scenario and that alone, has to be applauded, even if the end product is the presentation of seemingly unmanaged video footage, a technique that some may well love, only for others I dare say to tire of before the first reel is over.
Thankfully the cast play the scenario to the full, with Ariane Ascaride as Caroline and Hélène Surgère as the loving grandmother of the piece on fine form throughout, as too is Tavares, who new to acting and chosen from over fifty French figure Skaters, does a superb job in portraying the angst of adolescent sexual awakening. And by employing the video camera format to document such, this marks a far more personal, if at times almost voyeuristic interpretation of the coming out experience, being remarkably fresh, insightful and at times highly revealing! C'est la vie!
screened as part of the 17th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival 2003