The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, August 17-23

nyc repertory cinema-breathe

Breathe (2014)
Directed by Mélanie Laurent
Before drugs, before alcohol, before sex––there’s the high of meeting a new friend. This can be habit-forming if you’re an adolescent female, and in Laurent’s brave, unapologetic second feature, we learn just how addictive teenage friendship can be. New girl Sarah (a venomous Lou de Laage) seductively enters her first day at a new school; she offers Nigerian cigarettes to her classmates; she lasciviously struts down the balance beam; she whispers an answer to a confused student. Sarah is everything that shy, asthmatic Charlie (stunning Josephine Japy) is not, so much so that after their first walk home, the girls are giggling with intertwined legs and confessing their innermost desires.

Their homeostasis lasts for the first half of the film, though danger signs arise early when Sarah tries to sleep with Charlie’s mother’s love interest and drive a wedge between her and a childhood friend. Once their honeymoon is over, the girls’ rapport is almost instantly acrimonious; the survival mechanisms kick in and malice replaces their camaraderie, leading up to a staggering, vitriolic ending.

Laurent is gifted at presenting the details in this linear tale, without letting them become clichéd. She concentrates on body language, parties, homework, and parents—the essence of teenage life—but it’s nearly impossible to be bored of these scenarios with such paramount acting and incomprehensible rejection. The sexual hysteria of Blue is the Warmest Color is certainly abundant in Laurent’s film, but without the overt eroticism. Instead, her characters ooze feelings through whispers and stoic glares until their plausibility as friends evaporates as quickly as a teenager’s attention span. Samantha Vacca (August 17, 7pm; August 21, 2pm at MoMA’s Gaumont series)

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