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By Mike Watt | June 4, 2008

Beautifully-photographed on 35mm, “Coup De Grace” is a mannered, sometimes esoteric, deliberately-paced drama about a woman at a crossroads in her life.

Opera singer Alicia (Lucy Rayner) wants nothing more than to be admitted to the prestigious Paris Conservatory. Her passion, however, is stunted by depression stemming from multiple sources including a loveless relationship with a documentary filmmaker and a fear that she will succumb to the same madness that gripped her father and drove him to suicide. Then, without warning, she meets Grace (Bianca Giancoli), a mysterious, carefree blonde who brings new excitement to her life. Grace awakens Alicia’s passion in more ways than one, leading her to take chances in her career and her sexuality. But Grace’s past catches up with her in the form of a psychotic ex-boyfriend, which ensnares Alicia as well.

Written, directed and edited by Edward G. Norris, “Coup De Grace” feels like a modern day entry of the French New Wave, with dreamlike imagery, sometimes startling photography, a lyrical score (courtesy of Luis Ascanio) and an open-ended storyline designed to make the viewer question Alicia’s version of reality. Mainstream audiences are likely to be disappointed by the film’s leisurely pace and enigmatic ending, but fans of mood and character study will be more than satisfied.

The film’s independent veneer shows through on occasion, which is to be expected. At times, the acting is lacking (particularly on the part of Oliver Martin, who plays the slimy ex-Marine, Jerry). Rayner’s and Giancoli’s performances more than compensate—and indie movie fans will delight in a cameo appearance by Debbie Rochon as the owner of an antique store. In all, patient viewers will find the experience very rewarding.

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