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Cold Showers

Picture This! // Unrated // July 25, 2006
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Svet Atanasov | posted September 1, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Film:

Seventeen-year-old Mikael (Johan Libéreau) is the leader of a small team of judo-wrestlers in a high-school where athletes are held in high regard. His newest friend, Clément (Pierre Perrier), whose father has agreed to sponsor the school's judo team, is eager to learn from Mikael and as a result the two spend more and more time together. Slightly jealous Mikael's sweetheart Vanessa (Salomé Stévenin) becomes attracted by Clément.

Screened during last year's Cannes Film Festival Douches Froides a.k.a Cold Showers (2005) is an honest film about maturation and one boy's struggle to follow his dreams. Explicit, controversial, and thought-provoking Cold Showers also marks French director Anthony Cordier's feature-film debut (the director's two previous works are short documentaries).

The bigger part of Cold Showers is concerned with Clement's struggle to follow his heart as he must decide between his friends and his passion-judo. As he begins to lose on both ends, partially affected by his father's inability to provide the family with the needed financial support, the youngster faces a crisis which many would agree is due much later in life. Goals, ambitions, and reality collide in Clement's world leaving a painful mark.

Well, if all of this sounds somewhat cliché and you feel like you've seen Cold Showers under a different title I must quickly disappoint you-you have not! Yes, the themes which Anthony Cordier has attempted to bind together might appear somewhat familiar but the manner in which the main protagonists approach them is anything but. If a clichéd description is to be used then Cold Showers is closer to being a successful mix between Abdel Kechiche's poetic L'Esquive a.k.a Games of Love & Chance (2003) and Gregg Araki's explicit Nowhere (1997).

Graced by the superb acting of Johan Libéreau whose name I am convinced we will be hearing in the future Cold Showers is a film that in my opinion will appeal to both younger audiences (for its honesty in portraying the volatile and often unjust world of teenagers) and older audiences (for its nuanced approach to "difficult" themes which Hollywood typically fails to address adequately). In fact, I am fairly certain one of the main reasons the film was invited at the Cannes Film Festival has to do with its fluidity in terms of authenticity-through comedy, explicit sex, and drama Cold Showers never plays the "politically-correct" card.

In terms of technical presentation Cold Showers is beautifully photographed, often with the camera following the main characters closely, and never resorting to flashy trickery that would have softened the film's jagged look. On par with other recent French films about urban life and difficult love this is undoubtedly a picture that will put Anthony Cordier on the radar for many art-house/international cinema aficionados.

Awards/ Recognition:

Nominated for Cesar Award in the Best First Film category in 2006. In 2005 the film won the prestigious Prix Louis Delluc award for Best First Film (Anthony Cordier).

How Does the Film Look?

Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's Cold Showers appears to have been slightly cropped from its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The composition is neatly done yet I do not like the fact that the R1 distribs felt the need to adjust the film's aspect ratio. This being said the rest is manageable: colors are strong and lush, contrast is beyond average quality, and there are no print issues to report here. This being said I must confess that I am slightly puzzled by the way PictureThis produce their DVDs. What I mean is that often their releases tend to be a bit soft when blown-out through a digital-projector (the good thing: these are not PAL-ports) and when the disc also reveals a bit of edge-enhancement, as it is the case with Cold Showers, the results are quite a bit discouraging. Nevertheless this disc gravitates around the average/above average mark and if not for a few minor issues (mostly artifacts and macro-blocking) I think that you should be able to enjoy the presentation. Those of you with high-end set-ups note the softness factor mentioned above.

How Does the DVD Sound?

Presented with an excellent 5.1 DD French track (a 2.0 track is included as well) there are hardly any issues here that I need to report. Well-mixed, with excellent separation of sound and music, the audio treatment is near perfect. There are two sub-tracks provided: optional English and Spanish (yellow).

Extras:

The disc offers an interesting interview with the director which was taken in Toronto (strangely the interview is dubbed not subbed) in which he shares his thoughts about the film, the reaction of the critics in France, the performances of the main characters (especially Salomé Stévenin), the message the film sends to its viewers, and lastly resemblance between the main characters and the French teens. In addition there is a generic photo gallery, a second larger gallery for other PictureThis releases, as well as two international trailers.

Final Words:

I enjoyed this film a great deal!! It is easy to see why the critics and fans embraced it during the Cannes Film Festival-honest, poignant, and edgy Cold Showers offers a controvercial and engaging story played out with an admirable elegance. If you enjoyed the recent wave of urban-French cinema R1 distribs have brought to US shores (Lila Says; Games of Love & Chance; La Petite Jerusalem) you shouldn't miss this one. RECOMMENDED.

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