Benoit Jacquot’s 2004 film “A Tout de Suite”—French for “right now”—involves the kind of love story filmmakers usually do not like to tell. Romance is ephemeral and feigned, the main character isn’t necessarily likeable, and most importantly, the film’s priority is not viewer satisfaction but narrative integrity. Possessing such traits, “A Tout de Suite” isn’t marketable to a wide audience. French cinema and Albert Camus enthusiasts may be the only eager viewers. With visual cues from French New Wave and Camus-like dialogue and character interaction, Benoit’s film showcases human vulnerability, frivolity, and deception.
Based on an Elisabeth Fanger novel, “A Toute de Suite” is about a nineteen year-old female art student (Islid Le Besco) who gets mixed up with a couple of bank-robbing gangsters, falls in love with one of them, and ends up aiding and abetting their escape from Parisian police. The plot unfolds in approximately six stages: falling in love, fleeing with criminals, abandoned, confused, homecoming, and new life. Recorded from an occasionally fidgety, perpetually freely moving camera, “A Tout de Suite” pulls you along on the protagonist’s experiences through France to Spain and then to Morocco.
As the narrator, the long-haired blonde is supposed to receive our total sympathy, but she doesn’t. We definitely feel badly for what she has to go through—which could’ve been worse—but we think she ought to know better than to trust a criminal. It doesn’t matter how cute he is or how skilled he is in bed. I don’t recall ever hearing the names of the four main characters. It wasn’t until verifying some information for this review that I came across web pages that indicate the characters are Lili, the protagonist; Bada (Ouassini Embarek), the love interest; Alain (Nicolas Duvauchelle), the other gangster, and his girlfriend Joelle (Laurence Cordier). When I was under the impression that the director deliberately withheld their names, I could genuinely feel concern for the circumstances the characters were in even if I couldn’t for the characters themselves. What they were doing was more significant than what they called themselves.
“A Tout de Suite” contains a sufficient amount of action and suspense but it’s also quite the literary picture. Benoit has put together a poetic, black-and-white film that isn’t difficult to watch but isn’t easy to love either. The silences, the voice-overs, the abrupt ending of scenes capture a stream-of-consciousness spirit that is certainly an acquired taste. Though it’s intellectually stimulating, if “A Tout de Suite” doesn’t captivate you right away, it’s not likely to happen by the end.