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Illumination, April 22

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Saturday, April 22, 2006
6:30 p.m. Illumination
Pascale Breton (France, 2004)

Pascale Breton's debut feature is an invigorating, challenging, and elusive film about one young man's personal deterioration and search for balance in a constantly perplexing world. Ildut (the mesmerizing Clet Beyer) is a sometime fisherman who still lives with his parents on the rugged coast of Brittany and spends much of his working life in the company of gruff, taciturn men. After returning from a seafaring expedition, his odd behavior on land incites a visit to a psychiatrist and a prescription for medication he refuses to take. A further mental imbalance ensues, conveyed in a disorienting but cinematically invigorating sequence set in the Scottish highlands. Ildut's mental well-being improves slightly when he returns home and falls immediately in love with his grandmother's nurse, Christina (Melanie Le Ray). In order to gain her attention, Ildut displays an open-eyed willingness to try anything from on-the-spot car repairs to spiritual assistance from a self-satisfied cult leader. His path to love and self-realization might seem irregular, but it all adds up in the end. Though his pursuit of Christina provides the film with much humor and romantic pathos, Illumination is primarily about landscapes—both interior and exterior. Philippe Elusse's stunning cinematography conveys the austere beauty of Brittany, while Breton's script reveals the topography of Ildut's mind. As Breton states, "The moment [Ildut] sees Christina and, even more, the moment Christina sees him and somehow awakens him with her glance, Ildut comes alive. His is a search, a search for her. He reacts in a disorderly way, but he is reacting."

—Rod Armstrong

• Written by Breton. Photographed by Philippe Elusse. With Clet Beyer, Mélanie Le Ray, Catherine Hosmalin, Hervé Furic. (130 mins)