Viva Batrice! The glamorous, gap-toothed Ms. Dalle---who devoured men wholesale in Claire Denis's delirious cannibal-vampire dirge Trouble Every Day---has a new target to consume in Patric Chiha's captivating first feature. She plays Nadia, a Bordeaux-residing, high-heel-rockin' alcoholic mathematician who takes her gorgeous, gay teen nephew, Pierre (Sultan), under her broken wings. Pierre is just starting to come out of his shell, and his smart, slinky aunt, whose stilettos clack in metronomic rhythm with her arithmetical verbosity, is his perfect fetish object: Campy and canny, she's as likely to quote passages from Gdel as take Pierre to an underground discotheque presided over by a posturing Joan Crawford groupie.
Pierre puts his aunt above all else ("Be there in 30 minutes," he constantly tells her---always 30 minutes), until he slowly becomes wise to her savage, dipsomaniacal manipulations. Chiha keenly charts the duo's relationship from its beguiling early stages to its inevitable downward slope, and never in the expected ways. The moment when Pierre starts to show backbone comes not with a blowout fight but in a surreal, smoky musical number in a nightclub that's an early contender for scene of the year. And when the action eventually switches to an Austrian rehab retreat, Dalle gets to make like the best of the Old Hollywood divas and waste away with devastating reserve---an icon quietly, crushingly crashing to earth.
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