Cannes Review: Black Heaven (L'autre Monde)

Black Heaven is one of those slow developing films where nothing really happens, no matter how much you hope it will. The film could be about suicide, or perhaps murder, or maybe even our culture's relationship with isolation and video games, but none of it really sticks. Sensual? Sure. Different? Definitely. Good? Uh, that's a negative.

Gaspard (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) and his girlfriend, Marion (Pauline Etienne), are enjoying a day at the beach when she finds a lost cell phone. The phone rings, Gaspard answers, and they find themselves embroiled in a very strange situation. They find platinum blond >femme fatale Audrey (Louise Bourgoin) passed out in a car in an apparent suicide attempt with a co-conspirator. It all has something to do with the online game Black Hole. Unbeknownst to his girlfriend, Gaspard creates a profile to enter the online world (it looks like a darker version of Second Life), hoping to meet and solve the riddle of the enigmatic Audrey.

That's the setup, and it's a promising one. There's no reason a film like this couldn't work. Only it all develops very slowly. Painfully slowly, with details doled out in 15-minute increments, only to be rendered inconsequential by the next minuscule offering. There also seems to be a fair amount of plot logic missing -- at one point a character exclaims, "The four of us were so good together!" The problem is, we've only seen them on-screen for about a minute total. During another moment a friend asks for the return of his scooter, a vehicle we weren't previously aware was borrowed. Without a coherent structure the movie flails about only on the back of its sexuality, which isn't nearly enough to nourish it.

By the end you realize that Black Heaven is one of those films that looks way better in trailer form. The movie has striking visuals and a strong tone, but it's largely lacking in intrigue and smarts. If Black Heaven was a book, you'd note the cover art and the last page. Everything else would be worth skipping.

Grade: D+