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LONDON SHORT FILM FESTIVAL - Conte Anglais (dir: Daniel Marc Janes)
Saturday 1 February 2020, by
This sweet, topical short from director Daniel Marc Janes is both profound and poignant, masterfully touching on the English psyche from an outsider perspective. Shot in 16mm, the visually warm picture ends with a more succinct and intimate expression of Post-Brexit Britain than any insider knowledge could secure. It was showcased as part of the London Short Film Festival’s Visions of Albion event, which presented a formidable range of new shorts – each distinct in both theme and style but which all grappled with questions about our national identity and societal decline at this time of crux and crisis.
The strength of Conte Anglais, or English Tale, lies in its breezy style - both in the way it was elegantly shot and in how it brings the English seaside to life through bright colours, nostalgic lighting, loose fashion and, of course, the sounds of the seagull. The setting, Clacton-on-Sea, defies stereotypes about the Essex coast, instead creating a harmonious atmosphere of peace, fun, and the joys of youth.
The film follows two French girls, close to each other but with vocal differences in their philosophies on life and love, as they briefly explore this seaside town as part of a journalism assignment to investigate the Brexit vote. The schism is made apparent as it is revealed that Clacton is so close to Europe geographically yet so far emotionally, as evidenced by the population’s overwhelming choice to leave the European Union. As the characters meet two local boys, their differences - between carefree lust and introspective desire for love - grow in stark contrast. The lads, with their innate Britishness but also their own apparent differences, give the girls an insightful glimpse into the mindset of England; in doing so they offer both the characters and the audience a roundabout representation of the national psyche.
The bittersweet atmosphere climaxes on the girls’ last day in Clacton, as the main character vocalises her understanding of the aimlessness but more importantly the hope of the Brexit vote. After originally discussing the differences between the romanticism of French boys and the straightforwardness of English boys, she finally experiences an epiphany in her assignment. The Brexit vote, in this small town across the pond from Europe at least, did not come out of reason, logic or tactics but a romanticism of escape and adventure; she concludes by poignantly dubbing Brexit, with great irony, ‘the most French thing Britain has ever done’.
Find our more about the film on its official website.