Monday, 7 December 2009
Francois Ozon's 'Ricky' comes to ACMI
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) will hold the Australian premiere of François Ozon's Ricky (2009) followed by a two week season from Thursday February 25, 2010.
Ricky was adapted by Ozon from a short story by English novelist Rose Tremain, Moth (Vintage Books).
Set in working-class France, Katie (Alexandra Lamy) is an assembly line factory worker and single mother of Lisa (Mélusine Mayance), looking for some excitement in her mundane life. She falls in love with Paco (Sergi López), an ordinary man, and not long into the romance they discover they are expecting a child, yet neither knows what an extraordinary child this will be.
Ricky (Arthur Peyret) is an ordinary infant until one day bruised lumps on his shoulder blades begin to show, developing into sores and later, when the skin breaks, wings.
This social drama cum fantasy envelops the viewer into a believable 'real' world where ordinary characters deal with a not-so-ordinary situation.
Where Ricky's wings should be unsettling, they are more puzzling and fascinating to the family and provide them with an alternative to an otherwise mundane existence. As the infant's condition develops, so too does the family evolve; the characters developing in line with the key growth stages of Ricky's appendages. Drawn into the drama from the outset, viewers can be forgiven for not realizing when they are entering supernatural territory, thus involuntarily suspending disbelief.
Ozon, whose previously praised works include Swimming Pool (2003) with Charlotte Rampling, 8 Women (2002) featuring leading ladies Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Deneuve, and Criminal Lovers (1999), deliberately keeps Katie the protagonist, rather than shifting the focus to the title character. This is due to both recurring strong females in his work and a fascination with maternal instinct. Katie never sees the wings as a handicap, instead becoming the protective mother overflowing with unconditional love, nor does Lisa, who at just seven years of age displays an inherent maternal side.
The film also deals with instinct more broadly, referencing the animal instinct in several darkly comical moments. This link with the animal world also serves to further distance the viewer from the idea of angels, as does the choice of brown for feathers on Ricky's wings.
The story of Ricky is further enabled by flawless special effects led by Pierre Buffin (The Dark Knight, Spider Man 3, The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, The Prestige, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Ricky proved one of his more challenging projects due to the parameters involved with working with an infant (such as unpredictable movements and additional security measures potentially hindering realistic flight). Taking all these challenges into consideration, Ozon consulted Buffin early on; during writing the screenplay, to framing of the virtual movement during the shoot, right through to post-production. They studied the development and look of birds' wings in fine detail, Ozon determined never to let the viewer drift from 'reality' to fantasy. "I'm only interested in fantasy when it's presented in a believable way that allows for audience identification. That's why I wanted to show the process of Ricky' wings growing in precise detail," the director said.
While having darkly comical moments, Ricky was a vastly different venture for lead actress Alexandra Lamy, primarily known for sketch comedy show A Boy, A Girl which she wrote and starred in for French television (312 episodes, 1999-2002). Catalonian-born Sergi López is an award-winning actor across film and television primarily in Spain and is a regular collaborator of director and Cannes Jury Prize winner Manuel Poirier. Alongside these superb performances and special effects, the story is further perpetuated by an original score by Philippe Rombi and music from the likes of Cat Power.
Ricky premiered at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival in official competition where the film was nominated for the prestigious Golden Bear, Ozon's third nomination for the award. It has since screened in other parts of Europe, the USA and South America and is expected to get a theatrical release in the USA in early 2010.
ACMI film programmer Kristy Matheson said that ACMI has enjoyed a close association with the works of Francois Ozon. "We presented a complete overview of his artistic output in Focus On Francois Ozon in 2007.
"What makes Ozon so appealing is that he is an adroit director, who consistently offers audiences eclectic and wondrous cinematic experience. Stylish, sexually charged and multifaceted, Ozon's unique brand of storytelling ranges from cool contemporary dramas to epic baroque melodramas," she said.
The Australian premiere Ricky is on Thursday February 25 and the Long Play season, running exclusively at ACMI, is strictly until Wednesday March 10, 2010.
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