Running Time: 97 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: French – Stereo Surround
December 6, 2005
Though it took me a while to see Jean-Pierre Limosin’s Novo (it was released in 2002), I found it to be one of the better foreign films I have seen over the past year or so! Interestingly though, my early impression of Novo was not as glowing, as it seemed like little more than a riff on Christopher Nolan’s magnificent Memento, due to its somewhat non-linear storytelling method and the complications the main character has with his short-term memory. In watching it a second time, however, Limosin’s cleverness and subtlety begins revealing itself, as do his fascinating ideas about the moral implications serious memory impairments might have for afflicted persons, in terms of their experiences with love and sex.
Putting generalities aside, I would now like to try and give you a brief account of the story told in Novo. Early on, we see the aforementioned recollection-deficient person, named Graham (Eduardo Noriega), involved in an accident, which leaves him suffering from an acute memory impairment that renders him unable to recall events that transpired in his recent past. Despite this affliction, however, Graham somehow manages to hold down a gig at a printing company, and also has little difficulty relating with the fairer sex!
Indeed, as we come to learn, Graham’s memory problem has some benefits, which are chiefly derived from how he tends to behave in a perpetually spontaneous manner because of it. Coupled with his good looks, this free-spirited approach to life makes Graham extremely desirable to the women he comes into contact with. Of course, these ladies also seem to enjoy how each time Graham makes love to them, he is every bit as passionate as if it was his first sexual experience!
Touching on a couple of the ladies in Graham’s life, the lucky bastard gets to enjoy some “extra-curricular activity” with a company executive (Nathalie Richard), while also becoming intimately involved with a beautiful co-worker named Irene (Anna Mouglalis). Obviously, it does not take long for Irene to learn of Graham’s predicament, but her feelings for him deepen anyway, and she becomes bound and determined to find a way to ensure he remembers her. In doing so, Irene employs a variety of methods, some quite simple, and some more involved (using a Global Positioning System unit to track his movement), but Graham just keeps forgetting her.
Unfortunately, Graham’s own attempts to rediscover who he was and what he has done in his life also meet with failure. Undeterred, he decides to seek the aid of medical professionals in reconstructing his memory, and also uses basic methods like jotting down details about the people he meets and the experiences he shares with them in a journal. Graham then keeps this account of his recent actions attached to his person, so it will always be available for reference as experiences and people fade from his recollection.
Gradually, the buried memories of Graham’s life before the accident do begin coming back into some sort of focus, among them vague recollections that his real name may be Pablo, and that he may have had a wife (Paz Vega) and son (Lény Bueno)! The question is, will he be able to put together enough pieces for these recollections to have any real meaning for him? Or, could these recollections be nothing more than subconscious deceptions being generated by his damaged mind? If Graham really did have a family, would he be willing (or able) to abandon his new life of debauchery and return to them?
Interesting questions, all of them, and while I do not believe it is fair for those yet to see Novo to answer them, or go into any further detail about the plot, there is more to be said about this film, which is effective and interesting in many respects. For instance, although Novo’s deals with a now familiar theme (memory loss), Limosin applies it to a different arena, raising some interesting questions about the relationship between sex, morality, and memory.
In Novo Jean-Pierre Limosin’s direction is very fluid, resulting in a remarkably free-flowing film, where the characters behave in unpredictable ways, and express themselves with tremendous passion and intensity. Under his guidance, the film is also technically sound, especially in terms of Julien Hirsch’s appealing, dream-like cinematography.
With regard to performances, Eduardo Noriega was wonderful as Graham/Pablo, effortlessly giving life to a memory-challenged person who soaks in each moment or experience as if it were both his first and last. His counterpart, Anna Mouglalis is also an absolute delight in this film, and certainly succeeded in creating an organic and plausible chemistry between her and Noriega. The various supporting players also did fine work in Novo.
All in all, aside from the fact that some of the questions raised are left unanswered, and a couple of rather odd subplots that are appear late in the film, one of which involved a dislodged tooth being placed into a woman’s vagina (What the F*&*?!?!), Novo was certainly worth the time I spent with it. On the other hand, I also believe that Novo’s subject matter and artistic approach probably place it in the “not for everyone” category. That being said, the many qualities mentioned above should make it worth a look by those who enjoy a little variety in their movie watching.
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
MGM has brought home Novo in its original (1.85:1) aspect ratio, with anamorphic enhancement for widescreen displays, and it gives me great pleasure to say that the transfer is quite striking! To begin with, colors are rendered with precision and clarity, and flesh tones (and we see lots of skin ) are smooth and natural throughout the feature. Blacks are also deep and true, and the image typically boasts plenty of detail in dimly illuminated settings.
Happily, with the exception of a nominal amount of specks and minor print flaws, the image is clean and free from distracting digital artifacts. Edge enhancement, although present, is also applied minimally enough that it should not pose much of a problem for the average viewer. All in all, I found it to be a more than satisfactory presentation of the motion picture!
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
A French language surround (2.0) track is the only audio option, and since that is the case, I was happy to find that it made for easy listening. In particular, the character’s speech rings through clearly and cleanly, with no discernable sibilance or distortion. Sourced music and the film’s score also exhibited satisfying levels of fidelity and space, although the soundstage is certainly not huge.
Although it is not a spectacular track in any one area, it is certainly a good reproduction of Novo’s audio information. Fans of the film will find little to fault here, and definitely nothing that would take them out of the viewing experience.
There are no bonus features available on this DVD release.
The trailers for The Edukators, Its All Gone Pete Tong, and Me, You, and Everyone We Know are available for perusal.
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
Jean-Pierre Limosin’s Novo is not a flawless film, but it is well directed, fast-paced, and interesting all the same! Indeed, aside from a few missteps and bizarre subplots during the latter stages of the film, Novo easily maintained my interest. The performances by the leads, Eduardo Noriega and Anna Mouglalis are also inspired and engaging!
In terms of its release on DVD, there is no bonus material to be found, but that is probably to be expected of the release of a lesser-known French film. The presentation of the motion picture, however, is more than acceptable, which makes it easy to sit back and enjoy the viewing experience. I am a little reluctant to recommend a purchase outright, but if you are looking for something a little different, think about giving Novo a rental…you just might end up adding it to your collection later!