104 minutes

Six years after her last film, French hyphenate and regular Jacques Rivette collaborator Christine Laurent returns to feature helming with this intriguing arthouse piece inspired by the life story of early 20th-century Uruguayan poetess Delmira Agustini, who died in 1914 at 27 at the hands of her ex-husband after only four published books. Demain? - a title that comes from one of the film's last, if not the actual last, sentences of dialogue - follows Delmira's, known as "Nena", final years, as she struggles with her status as a woman writer in a patriarchal society, but its ethereal, stylized mood steers it well clear of any traditional biopic tropes. As played by Laure de Clermont, this is one young woman fighting for affirmation, both within a literary community whose actual centre is far away in Buenos Aires and her claustrophobic if well-meaning family cocoon. Her overbearing, aristocratic mother (Teresa Madruga) indulges Nena's art and revels in the attention it gives the family while disapproving of her engagement to ranch foreman Enrique Reyes (Marc Ruchmann), just as she disapproves of husband Santiago's (Adriano Luz) love of "low music" such as tango. And Nena herself veers wildly between feverish rushes of poetic creation and devastating lust for Enrique and listless, silent period where she locks herself in her room.

     Elegantly straddling the worlds of theatre (where Ms. Laurent has extensive experience as a stage director) and cinema, Demain? begins as a classic narrative but it disintegrates progressively into an oneiric tone, mirroring Nena's growing inability to simultaneously resist her lustful desires and create what she considers as valid work. There is a lot of theatricality in the way that the Agostini's mansion (designed, as all the sets, by the director herself) is laid out as a series of "boxes" or "stage sets" meant to be as expressive as the performances, but Ms. Laurent never allows Demain? to become merely filmed theatre. Instead, she strives to find a mid-point that will work to her advantage in creating a piece that is defined more as a creative interpretation of a real person rather than as a traditional biography. It doesn't quite get there: there's much to admire in the film's determined, deliberate stillness, André Szankowski's crisp lensing, and the cast's solid performances. But, probably like poetry itself, the actual grasp of both the character and Ms. Laurent's approach remain furiously elusive.

Starring Laure de Clermont, Marc Ruschmann, Teresa Madruga, Adriano Luz; Luís Miguel Cintra, Vladimir León, Beatriz Batarda, Diogo Dória, Lolita Chammah, Vladimir Consigny.
     Director and art director, Christine Laurent; produced by Martine de Clermont-Tonnerre; written by Ms. Laurent and Georges Peltier; director of photography (colour, processing by Light Film, 1:1.85), André Szankowski; wardrobe, Ana Simão; film editor, Sandro Aguilar.
     A MACT Production/O Som e a Fúria presentation/production, with the support of the French National Centre for Cinema and the Animated Image. (World sales, Wide Management.)
     Screened: Festa do Cinema Francês advance press screening, São Jorge 1 (Lisbon), October 12th 2011. 


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