Son of the Shark | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Son of the Shark

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In her first feature, Son of the Shark (1993), which deals with troubled adolescence in a rural French town, Agnes Merlet assiduously avoids using psychoanalysis to explain societal ills. Rather, she matter-of-factly depicts the wasted lives of two brothers through a series of evocative vignettes that accumulate emotional power. Martin and Simon are street urchins abandoned by their bickering parents and condemned as "losers" by their elders; barely surviving on the fringes of law and society, they engage in petty crime and childish high jinks. When left alone, they fantasize about being enveloped in the calm of the immense blue sea like the "son of the shark," a metaphor taken from the poet Lautreamont. Brimming with austere, half-lit images, the film contains incidents based on real-life stories Merlet compiled during field research across the French countryside. Even when its tone shifts from tenderness to grittiness--aided by a sound track that alternates between cloying melancholy and mute lyricism--it feels authentic. Ludovic Vandendaele, the 14-year-old who plays Martin, exudes the insouciant rebelliousness of Jean-Pierre Leaud in Truffaut's The 400 Blows. His harrowingly genuine performance, along with Erick Da Silva's as Simon, is at once entertaining and disturbing. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday, June 2, 7:00 and 9:00; Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and June 4, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00, and 9:00; Monday through Thursday, June 5 through 8, 7:00 and 9:00; 282-4114.

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