Cannes 2017: Léa Mysius’s Ava

On Film / The Daily — May 21, 2017

We begin with Leslie Felperin in the Hollywood Reporter: “A debut feature from Lea Mysius, who only graduated from Paris’ La Femis film school a few years ago, Ava is a sensual, accomplished but awkward study of teen female sexuality, told through the eyes of a headstrong 13-year-old protagonist Ava (impressive discovery Noee Abita) who’s about to go blind. After a captivating start, especially in its depiction of the fractious relationship between Ava and her single mother (Laure Calamy), the tinges of surrealism give way to outright weirdness, verging on the ridiculous, as Ava turns badass and goes on a third-act crime spree with her older boyfriend.”

Ava is a film that doesn’t simply explore the textural possibilities of 35mm film for the hell of it,” writes Jessica Kiang for Variety. It “makes thematic use of them, to stunning, evocative effect. DP Paul Guilhaume (who is also the co-screenwriter; an unusual pairing of functions that makes sense given the visual nature of the storytelling in a story about vision) creates images of a peculiar richness in which the colors are saturated but the lens seems progressively more stopped-down so that even the brightest sunlight can feel portentous. ‘She’s blonde and sunny, and I’m dark and invisible’ says Ava, self-pityingly comparing herself to her fair-haired love rival. But Ava’s darkness is anything but invisible; it has a glowering luminosity in a film that shines darkly.”

Noting that Mysius has cowritten Arnaud Desplechin’s Cannes opener Ismaël’s Ghosts, Wendy Ide, writing for Screen, adds that Ava “has something of the lawless teen appeal of Gerardo Naranjo’s debut feature Voy A Explotar [I’m Gonna Explode (2008)]. . . . Fascinated by a black German shepherd dog she encounters on the beach, she follows it, and witnesses its owner, a teenaged Roma boy, in an altercation with the waitress at a beachfront cafe. The police arrive, and the crowd disperses. But Ava becomes preoccupied by the dog and its owner, Juan (Juan Cano). . . . Her abrasive relationship with her mother has deteriorated, and Ava flings herself into a relationship in which she can be carer rather than cared for.”

Mysius “manages to quickly change register with extraordinary ease,” writes Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa. “And even though the final leg of the film, in which the young lovers try to escape from the police, is a little less amazing, Ava shows that this is without a doubt a brilliant young filmmaker to keep a close eye on.”

Joseph Allen has a few questions for Mysius at Women and Hollywood.

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