‘Selfie’: SXSW Movie Assessment

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[Editor’s note: “Selfie” is one of more than 100 movies originally scheduled to screen at the SXSW Film Festival in March. After the coronavirus outbreak forced the festival to cancel, event organizers partnered with Amazon Prime to make seven of those features available to stream for free through Weds., May 6.]

Many a screenwriter has cursed the appearance of cellphones and the web within the final 30 years, as they need to contrive ever extra unique methods of stranding their characters and depriving them of contacts and data: the distinctly 21st-century peril of disconnection. As compensation, nevertheless, this know-how has gifted them with a world of recent methods for characters to seduce, pursue and destroy one another. In automobiles that vary from the embarrassingly sanctimonious (“Males, Ladies and Youngsters”) to the eerily humorous (“Ingrid Goes West”), the cellphone has emerged because the go-to supervillain of the age.

The assorted methods by which that humble machine can shatter lives, egos and relationships are impishly explored in “Selfie,” a French portmanteau comedy that, for all its savage social insinuations, nonetheless lands fairly frivolously. Its faintly interwoven vignettes level up the hazards of extremely-online dwelling not with a wagging finger, however a distinctly Gallic “what are ya gonna do” shrug. The onscreen subtitle of the movie, in any case, is “On the affect of recent media on good folks”: Affection is the predominant sentiment coloring most of those broad mini-farces, although “Selfie” cuts deepest when it additionally cuts coldest. The most effective shorts right here really feel like they may morph into tart, probing options; others play like New Yorker cartoons. Initially set to display at SXSW, this droll diversion is as an alternative bowing on-line as a part of the pageant’s Amazon Prime program — a change in plan that’s nothing if not thematically on level.

All 5 administrators credited on this reasonably casually threaded assortment are male, which appears a little bit of an oversight contemplating how most of the shorts right here take care of the impact of know-how on trendy relationship politics. At the least Marc Fitoussi’s “Le Troll,” starring Elsa Zylberstein as a Luddite literature instructor whose Twitter-dissing of an inarticulate movie star comic (Max Boublil) takes an sudden romantic flip, expressly takes a girl’s perspective via that specific minefield. Fitoussi made the feathery Isabelle Huppert starrers “Copacabana” and “Paris Follies,” and his brief brings an analogous observe of wistful whimsy to proceedings, although its intriguing manipulation of on-line anonymity for the needs of romantic want fulfilment by no means fairly lands the killer psychosexual blow of the current, comparably themed Juliette Binoche drama “Who You Assume I Am.”

To worldwide arthouse audiences, probably the most outstanding title right here could also be Thomas Bidegain, best-known as Jacques Audiard’s common co-writer. According to his status, he delivers probably the most piercing and satirically venomous contribution, offered piecemeal as a framing narrative reasonably than a single brief. That structural alternative enhances the spiraling sense of desolation in “Vlog,” which tracks the breakdown of a middle-class household within the wake of going viral, to cruelly hilarious impact. When their heartfelt vlogs detailing their son Luke’s wrestle with an orphan illness rack up hundreds of thousands of views, dad and mom Fred (Maxence Tual) and Stephanie (Blanche Gardin) are initially overwhelmed by the kindness of on-line strangers, to not point out the lavish presents and invites that come flooding in from company make-a-wish sorts. But when Luke is miraculously cured, the presents dry up as swiftly because the vlog views dwindle; Fred and Stephanie’s ever extra determined makes an attempt to reignite the net’s curiosity make for wince-inducing viewing.

If unfolded at function size, “Vlog” might construct to a quantity of vicious tragicomic depth worthy of Michael Haneke, all the way down to its faintly absurd hard-left flip of a twist. In brief type, it’s suitably wry and dry, although the movies it brackets all wind up wanting a bit blunter by comparability. Tristan Aurouet’s “2.6/5” begins mordantly as a takedown of the inhumane algorithms of relationship apps, buoyed by Finnegan Oldfield’s tense, fidgety efficiency as a gawky nerd who hacks the system to ruinous impact — although it grows much less plausible, and thus much less resonant, the additional it pushes the joke.

Cyril Gelblat’s “Recommandé Pour Vous” pokes delicate enjoyable on the invasiveness of focused promoting, however feels likewise overstretched, whereas Vianney Lebasque’s “Smileaks,” which examines the fallout of a worldwide knowledge leak on a genteel marriage ceremony get together, meshes the tones of “Black Mirror” and bed room farce to considerably strained impact — a cooler contact is named for than the brilliant, sitcom-style lensing and scoring that binds all of the movie’s segments, to variably apt impact. “Selfie” is a combined bag, like most such omnibus initiatives, but at its sharpest, it self-reflexively admits to the banality and disposability implied by its title: If one picture right here doesn’t tickle you, it’s straightforward sufficient to swipe to the subsequent.

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