One Two Another Review
There is certainly the intention to achieve something different and out of the ordinary in the films of Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr, the filmmaking team attempting to bring an indie sensibility to a particularly French way of making films. It’s a difficult time for such films - now coming to be known under the very loosely defined category of cinéma du milieu (“middle cinema”) - films which fit neither into the camp of commercial nor auteur French cinema. One Two Another (Chacun sa nuit) similarly tries to reconcile the diverse elements of a murder mystery with a more reflective examination of youthful attitudes towards their corporeal and spiritual nature, which presents an intriguing prospect, if not one that the filmmakers convincingly achieve.
“Freely based on a true story”, One Two Another takes as its starting point the death of a young man, and the impact the mysterious circumstances of his death has on those close to him. A member of a local rock group, there is certainly a very close intimacy not only between Pierre (Arthur Dupont) and the other members of the band, but also with his sister Lucie (Lizzie Brocheré), the relationships moreover in addition to being borderline incestuous, also having a complicating factor of bisexuality, which results in a sharing and swapping of partners between the small group. All of them however seem to enjoy the freedom of their sexuality and their perfect youthful bodies, and are often comfortably naked bathing or sunbathing in each other’s presence.
Pierre however disappears on his motorbike after one of the band’s shows and when his body is eventually found, it has a profound affect on the group dynamic. Inevitably it is Pierre’s sister Lucie who is hardest hit by his death, a fact that is evident from the film’s fractured narrative, related by Lucie to her Doctor who is getting her to write about the events as part of her therapy. Reconstructed through such flashbacks, Lucie tries to follow up several leads that have come to light. Narcissistic, bisexual, very sexually active and dangerously outspoken, Pierre has certainly made some enemies, but few with any real reason to want to kill him.
Essentially, Chacun sa nuit becomes a psychodrama played out as a mystery thriller. Through its murder-mystery, the filmmakers attempt to examine youthful attitudes towards sexuality, and how it can be used positively and in a negative way. The young people in One Two Another enjoy being able to freely express themselves through their bodies, using it as if it were a powerful tool to allow them to get what they want without realising the full implications of their actions. Despite their apparent liberalism, jealousy does exist, as do personal hang-ups and insecurities, and the dynamic between them may not be as ideal as it appears on the surface. There is a fragile connection between the body and the mind that, for all their confidence in their own youth and looks, the young people haven’t yet come fully to terms with.
It’s an interesting subject that the film sets out to examine – one that Bernardo Bertolucci treated with similar frankness in The Dreamers - but Arnold and Barr are no more successful than Bertolucci in their endeavour to derive anything meaningful from it all. Chacun sa nuit however at least paints a more relevant and convincing exploration of sexuality from a modern perspective, showing how such liberalism may be at odds with the attitudes of a society that remains essentially small-minded, the film even directly confronting issues of racism. In an attempt to draw from a complicated mix of personal and social motivations however the filmmakers find themselves turning the mystery into mysticism, expressing the conflict between the body and the spirit in its relationship with the very land and people of that land in an manner that takes them very much into Bruno Dumont territory, albeit one that swaps Dumont’s northern coldness for the passions of the south of France. For all its free nudity and despite the warmer climate, the sexual situations in One Two Another as every bit as cold, joyless and bleak as Dumont’s L’Humanité. There is even a slightly backward character here called Paul who is this film’s Pharaon de Winter, a watchful mystical figure just outside the group who can sense the psychic disturbances related to the death of Pierre that others can’t detect.
And unfortunately those others include the viewer. The filmmakers certainly don’t intend to provide any easy answers where none are available in the circumstances of the real-life case, but their approach is nonetheless still unconvincing. One Two Another plays out well on the basic level of a murder-mystery, suggesting a number of conflicting elements and underlying attitudes that could potentially lead to the death of a young man, but it is clear that the filmmakers want to suggest much more than this. Unfortunately, despite its apparent indie sensibility, the film relies too much on the model-like young naked bodies of its cast and it fails to find an effective means to contrast such corporeal perfection with the mysterious, indefinable, corrupting elements of the mind.
One Two Another is released in the UK by Peccadillo Pictures under their Petit Péché imprint. The film is presented on a dual-layer disc, in PAL format, and is not region encoded.
The film benefits from an excellent presentation of its digital elements, retaining a level of grittiness in the film’s tone and texture. It’s not at all a glossy, brightly-lit film. There is some cross-colouration suggesting an intermediate analogue source, but otherwise the image is strong, transferred progressively and anamorphically at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The image is clear throughout, with a fine level of detail even in darker scenes and wide shots.
The only soundtrack option is the original French Dolby Digital 2.0 track. This is fine, clear and solid with a reasonably good tone – more than adequate for the demands of the film.
English subtitles are provided but are fixed on the transfer in a fairly large font and cannot be removed.
Extra features aren’t extensive, but based mainly around two interviews with the directors and cast, they are quite informative. In the Interview with Pascal and Lizzie (10:30), Pascal Arnold and Lizzie Brocheré talk about casting, creating a group dynamic, finding an environment to work within outside of the typical film approach and reactions to the film. The Interview with Jean-Marc and Arthur (13:37) covers much of the same ground from the view of Jean-Marc Barr, Arthur Dupont and Pierre Perrier. The extra features are rounded out with a One Two Another Trailer (1:08), which has high levels of nudity, and a slideshow Behind The Scenes Gallery (1.51). Trailers are also included for current Peccadillo Pictures film and DVD releases.
One Two Another takes an interesting approach to a subject which, derived from a real-life murder case, has relevance to modern-day attitudes towards youth, sexuality and race relations in France. Whether the body-perfect, handsome cast and their complicated group dynamic is representative of wider youth and their attitudes is however questionable, as is the means by which the filmmakers vaguely allude to the less tangible emotional and spiritual elements that motivate the characters. While perhaps not entirely successful, there is however promise here in the work of two filmmakers who are prepared to take on relevant subject in their own way. Peccadillo Petit Péché DVD release presents the film very well with a good transfer and extra features.