Having grown up alone in the north of France with a father who survived the First World War, a lonely young girl passionate about music and singing never stops believing in the prophecy given to her by a woman who is a bit of a witch. The latter promised him a better future, far from his village.
For his first feature film in French, made in his new adopted country, Italian filmmaker Pietro Marcello (Martin Eden) offers a film as strange as it is fascinating, in which the very realistic setting of the early 20th century serves as a backdrop. to a kind of musical tale. The trouble is that the director, who brings to the screen a free adaptation of the novel Les voiles écarlates (which the Russian writer Alexandre Grine published in 1923), does not seem to have decided on a precise form.
We thus find ourselves in front of a story punctuated with magical realism, where the protagonist sometimes launches into a sung flight, without however this part being important enough for us to really consider The Flight as a musical drama. It should be noted that the few tunes heard, composed by Gabriel Yared, seem to have been directly inspired by the films of Jacques Demy.
This sense of dichotomy further stems from the fact that Pietro Marcello made every effort to translate the era realistically, even using archival scenes captured on Armistice Day in the Bay of Somme. A few shots from Au Bonheur des Dames (Julien Duvivier, 1930) have also been incorporated into the story. At the same time, the filmmaker has taken great care over the pictorial beauty of his film. Visually, L’envol is splendid.
Note also a remarkable ensemble cast, dominated in particular by Raphaël Thiéry, a silent peasant who establishes a solid emotional bond with his daughter Juliette, whom he only got to know on his return from the war. Noémie Lvovsky also stands out in the role of a farmer who raised Juliette by replacing the mother, who died in childbirth, and Juliette Jouan, a newcomer, also skilfully pulls out of the game. For his part, Louis Garrel distinguishes himself in the role of an aviator fallen from the sky. All these beautiful people are involved in dramas causing suspicion of witchcraft to run in the village…
Chosen to open the Quinzaine des cinéastes at the Cannes Film Festival last year, L’envol certainly arouses interest, but suffers from a mixture of genres which, in this case, does not always turn out to be harmonious.