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Thirty-year-old Alice's occupation is rather unusual for a woman : she works as an engineer on a freighter. She loves her job and does it competently but even in a greasy blue overall a woman will be a woman, with her heart, her desires and her seduction... In such conditions can an all-male crew really remain totally insensitive to her charms? A situation all the more complicated as not only does Alice leave her fiancé Felix behind but she also discovers on board the Fidélio that the captain is Gaël, her first love... Written by
Lucie Borleteau's first feature-length movie is a strange one. It has an interesting premise (few are the movies that revolve around a woman... working as an engineer on a freighter) but its development is
to say the least - surprising. You might expect a documentary on the
theme : 'the everyday life and working conditions of a female worker on a merchant ship' or a sociological study dealing with the point 'how does an insert element manage to fit into an a priori unfriendly universe?' And - to be fair - there are elements of the response to both questions. On the documentary side, the cargo ship Fidélio on which most scenes take place is a real one and it shows. As a consequence everything rings true, from the sorry state of the antiquated freighter to the engine room operations to the superstitious Filipino crew members, to the wild sprees ashore. As for the study of what it is like to be a woman in a male-dominated environment, the result is only fairly convincing : this is probably due to the fact that Alice is seen in too many scenes in which she thinks of love, yearns for sex or actually makes love and in not enough where she carries out her engineer's job. And when she IS doing so, she appears too beautiful, too well-groomed and her hands are just about greasy enough. Of course it is Lucie Borleteau's choice to show that a woman, whether working in an engine room or not, will be a woman (which I perfectly understand), but it seems to me her film would have been better if she had found a more adapted balance between the intimate and the documentary sequences. On the whole, though, "Fidelio, l'odyssée d'Alice" remains quite a watchable film. First of all because it may be the first (or if is not, one of the first) fiction movies on its theme
and this is no small thing. In addition, even if more could have been
shown about Alice's trade, the relationships between the various member of the crew are well observed and well captured in this aptly-made drama. Another asset of 'Fidélio' is its fine cast consisting either of professionals (in particular the classy Ariane Labed as Alice the free woman and the sensitive Anders Danielsen Lie as Felix, the young lover she has left behind) or of real-life seamen who play themselves in a very realistic way. All in all, a voyage you can embark on provided you don't mind a significant part of its running time being devoted to its main character's sentimental pangs or graphic lovemaking.
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