Within French cinema, it’s not hard to discern a tradition of films that revolve around groups of youngsters who spend their leisure summertime in Gallic coastal towns. A disparate array of cineastes, each in their own peculiar way, have dedicated attention to this meticulous observation of the notion of youth, something like a right of passage. And in this way, Pascal Tagnati’s directorial debut feature, I Comete – A Corsican Summer, certainly fits the tradition — Éric Rohmer’s work feels like the most obvious superficial touchstone here. Consisting of a series of fixed shots, and unreliant on any specific narrative thrust, Tagnati makes his film a sort of free-flowing atmospheric documentation of Corsica itself, centered around a network of recurring characters across a couple of sun-drenched days and warm, moonlit nights. His approach consistently blurs the line between fiction and documentary, oscillating between a stylistic formalism denoting fictive art and a certain naturalism on the part of the players that feels authentic. His camera mostly remains at a distance from the figures it captures, while bodies and objects (the rim of a wall, a chair, the bend of a road) are carefully arranged in frame, the mise-en-scène frequently fixed on a diagonal. Within these tilting compositions, the French actor-director employs an observational style, reveling in depictions of life’s minutiae — in terms of the shots’ juxtapositions and blocking, it’s not unreasonable to think of the visual style of Roy Andersson or even Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet.
Tagnati is principally concerned with studying these figures in different postural configurations, bodies luxuriating in minor activities — standing, lounging, singing, dancing, drinking, and of course, engaged alternatively in idle chit-chat and more pensive ruminations — and he applies but an impressionistic touch and a certain sensuality to these encounters. This delicacy works both to reveal the most profound sentiments of his characters, reflective of their joys, fears, pleasures, and pains, and to offer a platform for their musings on various socio-political, economic, or cultural factors. And so, as the characters’ declarations and conversations begin to contrast with the tranquility and the ostensible relaxed mood of I Comete’s natural spaces, it can be intuited that the film will gradually bring to the fore the underlying personal, intergenerational, racial, sexual, and class tensions that exist within this microcosm. By delineating this small Corsican community, Tagnati not only examines the universality of hidden thoughts and desires and hopes and anxieties of humanity, but also seizes on the gist of the moment, the very crux of being within life’s ephemerality. In this way, Tagnati’s I Comete is indeed a very promising debut, reflective of both a deeply empathic instinct and a certain cinephilic lineage, and more than enough to encourage enthusiasm for his future work.
Published as part of IFFR 2021 — Dispatch 3.