Le Bruit de la Lumiere is a uniquely sensual experience. Not in the common context of being erotic, but, mirroring the unusual paranormal experience of its lead, it is a film that suffuses your senses through it’s lush visual palette, avant garde incorporation of still photography, and its deep union between image and sound. It is a masterclass of music video style brought successfully to a narrative longshort, and cements its director and co-screenwriter, Valentin Petit as one of the most inspired up-and-coming image makers.
Riffing off the concept of synaesthesia, which Petit discovered reading the memoir of Daniel Tammett, the film imagines a peculiar manifestation of the phenomenon in Lou (Alice David). When exposed to light she emit amazing, otherworldly sounds. These sounds are recorded by her friends, Pablo and Marius, and promise to be the foundation of new style of music that will take them to the top of the Parisian music scene. Yet, the physical side effects for Lou are immense, and create an ethical dilemma for the trio.
As a curator intimately familiar with the music video scene from my time in charge of Vimeo’s Staff Picks, I have frequently remarked at the divide between narrative filmmakers and their commercial counterparts. It has felt like an insurmountable wall between story OR style, and I’ve been continually disappointed when star talents from one side ventured to the other. While not wholly successful here, Petit has come closer than most in marrying the flair of music videos at their best with a compelling narrative. Despite the 23min runtime, the film oozes cool, and has a rhythm that is easy to get caught up in. Still, I won’t deny that the visuals are doing a lot of the heavy lifting. The characterizations of Lou, Pablo and Marius are thinly sketched, and the ugly aspects of Lou’s exploitation at the hands of her friends is not explored with the rigor that I would have hoped for. If successful projects tilt 80/20 towards one side of this hypothetical divide, Petit approaches something more akin to 50/50 here.
Still, the visual 50% is no mere aping of tired tropes. I first encountered Petit a few years back through Anothphobia, a remarkable short film that blends the trappings of old-world aristocratic luxury with a similarly twisted and bizarre premise, and despite the two years this followup took to complete, and the exponentially increased ambition of its storytelling, it is somehow even more formally daring in its image design. Some of it is lovely but familiar—shot on Sony A7sii, there is the pleasing post-effect grain and deeply saturated palette, paired with cool production design like immaculate classic cars and vintage electronics. But it is the inclusion of still photography scattered onto a weird backdrop, and particularly the synesthesia sequences where real elements (foils, aluminium etc.) were “tortured”, that are particularly inspired. If you’ve been waiting for BRTHR to make a proper film debut, this will tide you over nicely.
Produced by Ocurens, a Parisian production company founded by Petit with producer Germain Robin, the outfit has grown steadily in the commercial space and boasts a hip international roster (including personal faves The Flaminguettes). Finished earlier this year, Le Bruit de La Lumiere is still touring festivals, but premiered online last week with Nowness. Next up for Petit and Ocurens is music video for French rapper Prince Waly, which will be shot of 35mm! We’ll be on the lookout for that, but our appetite is really whetted to see these talents tackle a short film again soon.