French director Mélanie Laurent just made her “first american movie” adapted from Nic Pizzolatto’s first novel. We had a coup de foudre for this film noir.
Because of a natural and social repulsion for french cinema, we had never seen Mélanie Laurent on screen as an actress until Tarantino’s Inglourious Bastards in 2009. A few years later after acting, singing and directing, we’ve crossed her path in Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy. Then came the Galveston project in from 2010 novel by Nic Pizzalotto. This guy with a funny name is the creator and author of the best and darkest TV show since Twin Peaks, True Detective. The night of the first parisian screening, Laurent presented her film with a certain simplicity, far from the image social networks gave of her a few years ago. She came to direct Galveston by being casted by the production. “It is a common practice in the U.S.” she explains. She also tells that making the movie, meaning being on set with the actors and the team (she hated the post-production phase), was a great moment. Laurent would not have made Galveston without Elle Fanning and Ben Foster because the story demanded “top actors”. The young woman salutes her public and leaves to another theater probably as much crowded. We know nothing about the movie at this time except that all these talents, works, careers, influences, are going to unite on the big screen into a film noir.
White trash mess
It must be a storm as the wind almost breaks a window left open. Cut. Then a voice, a medic. It is cancer. Roy, forty, is furious. Alcoholic and heavy smoker, he also battles with his environment : he is a low-life hitman. A fat, aged and creepy Beau Bridges needs him for a job. There is too much information to cope with, because it is a genre movie. It may look like another variation around the tale of the scorpio that wanted to cross a river on the back of a frog. It is not that simple in Galveston, TX, as both creatures could finally find a way to cooperate to get out of this white trash mess. Mélanie Laurent ads her actress sensibility to make us feel attached to the characters and the actors, and then the trap closes on the audience.
It has to be seen or read again but it seems that the screenplay of Galveston is nearly perfect. It is a very luxurious frame according to the poor standards of the industry that Laurent works around. With the help of Arnaud Potier her DP since her first short in 2008, the director gives us pictures to remember. The scene introducing the two main characters, a violent shooting, is filmed in a way never seen before, very close the actors and few details about the surroundings. And maybe because Laurent is a woman (in an interview she says that misogyny had to be expelled from the first drafts of the script), her camera looks at Fanning without over-sexualizing her, even if she is young, pretty and plays a prostitute. Also, the relationship with Foster’s character is in a way desexualized. Maybe Mélanie Laurent just treated her actors like she would like to be treated as an actress too, therefore the result on screen. Laurent has started her career at the age of 10, dubbing the main character of Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, as did Elle Fanning in 2005. There is enough randomness and mastery in the making of this movie to call it one of the best surprises of 2018.
Galveston. Screenplay : Mélanie Laurent, Jim Hammett, and Nic Pizzolatto (novel). Directed by Mélanie Laurent. Cast : Ben Foster, Elle Fanning, Lili Reinhart. Cinematography : Arnaud Potier. Editing : Guerric Catala, Joseph Krings. Music : Marc Chouarain. United States, 2018. In theaters october 19th 2018.