Djinn Carrenard’s FLA has opened this year’s Critics’ Week and, as Ben Kenigsberg explains at RogerEbert.com, the title “stands for ‘faire l’amour’ (‘to make love’)—a bit of a tease, since the film consists almost exclusively of talking. A far-removed, mood-swing-prone cousin of The Mother and the Whore, it’s a film of free-wheeling digressions and endless arguments. It centers on two lovers in France: a flight attendant, Laure (Laurette Lalande), and an aspiring rap musician, Oussmane (actual rapper Azu), who’s just entered into a recording deal but at the same time suffers a hearing loss. About a third of the way through this nearly three-hour film, Laure’s sister, Kahina (Maha), a convict who has a child in foster care, returns home. Her sudden presence in the house threatens to cause Laure and Oussmane’s relationship to combust…. It’s the sort of movie in which you can’t tell if the director is a hopeless amateur or a gonzo original. But although that can be exasperating, it’s just as often energizing, and occasionally—as in a lengthy, vividly shot proposal scene—it can be thrilling.”
“French self-taught director Djinn Carrenard impressively avoids the sophomore slump with FLA, his long-awaited follow-up to his much-lauded first feature, Donoma,” writes Boyd van Hoeij for the Hollywood Reporter, where he notes that “Donoma won the Louis Delluc Prize for best debut even though it was produced outside of the French financing system…. The bulk of [FLA] is set in the Mediterranean town of Perpigan,” but “a scene in Haiti and an English-language sequence with a cameo for U.S. poet-actor-musician Saul Williams… infuse the realistic film with unexpected poetic touches.”
In Variety, Maggie Lee finds that FLA “buries a poignant, confrontational exploration of loneliness and self-absorption in so many screaming matches and showy film techniques that it becomes a rambling shout-a-thon.”
Bénédicte Prot, writing at Cineuropa, finds that these arguments “[plunge] the viewer into the characters’ intimacy. This feeling of closeness gives way, however, to slight irritation, not only because of the frustrating incommunication which quickly sets about dominating the spiritless dialogue, but above all in the face of the aggression that turns each of these conversations into a fruitless confrontation between individuals who, at the end of the day, are superficial.”
On the other hand, here’s Allan Hunter, writing for Screen Daily: “Told in a style that echoes past masters of the nouvelle vague from Jacques Rivette to Agnès Varda, it offers a grueling but compelling emotional work-out on a par with a session of John Cassavetes improvisation or an Edward Albee play.” Heavens.