Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hansen-Løve’s Goodbye First Love

Camille studies architecture, but it is a safe bet she never read The Fountainhead. If she had, perhaps she would have allowed herself to become so all-consumed with ardor for the slightly older Sullivan. In contrast, her soon to be ex is quite capable of self-centered behavior. This will cause her considerable heartache in Mia Hansen-Løve’s Goodbye First Love (trailer here), which opens this Friday at the IFC Center.

Camille’s dedication to Sullivan, her first real lover, apparently surpasses his comfort level. He clearly has feelings for her, but balks at her possessiveness. Frankly, he is looking forward putting some distance between them during his upcoming South American trip to “go find himself.” (How he lost himself down there, we’ll never know.) Yet, in the short term, the guilt and anxiety resulting from his infrequent calls and letters makes matters worse. Eventually, he severs contact altogether, sending her into an emotional tailspin.

A few years pass and Camille finally starts to pull herself together. Her architecture studies play an important role. Quickly she becomes the lover and professional colleague of her Scandinavian professor, Lorenz. Then one day, Sullivan reappears, almost instantly pulling Camille into a love triangle.

Granted, some people just have your number, but it is awfully hard to understand Camille’s lingering attraction to Sullivan. Maybe it is some sort of Peter Pan phenomenon, since the slacker never seems to grow-up. Considering how young twenty year-old actress Lola Créton really looks, initially playing Camille at age fifteen, her extended nude scenes are also frankly a tad questionable.

Still, the petit Créton’s fragile presence aptly suits her character. She is quite expressive, directly conveying Camille’s deep insecurities. Sebastian Urzendowsky’s Sullivan is a somewhat different matter. While he was previously a bit too mannish looking to carry off the role of Marie Ketteler, the young man forced to pass as a woman at the Third Reich’s Olympics in Berlin ’36, he certainly does not have that problem here. Frankly, it is hard to remember him once he exits a scene, let alone relate to Camille’s heroic pining over him. At least Magne-Håvard Brekke lends the picture some character and maturity as the trusting Lorenz.

To her credit, Hansen-Løve treats her story of enduring codependency with absolute respect. It is always painful whenever the object of one’s affections does not reciprocate, even when those around us just do not get the attraction. Ultimately though, viewers will identify more with Camille’s vexed parents than with her or Sullivan. Sensitively lensed by cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine, Goodbye First Love is pretty to look at, but awfully frustrating. For Francophiles and admirers of Hansen-Løve, it opens this Friday (4/20) at the IFC Center.