Director CS Leigh has noted that ‘when you start to explain things they disappear’. This may be true, but it leaves viewers of his new film – which observes, with frigid detachment, the disintegrating life of a Parisian actress (Béatrice Dalle) following the death of her child and her diagnosis with breast cancer – rather high and dry. Rigorously eschewing anything as potentially distortive as names, let alone emotional engagement, ‘Process’ comprises a non-chronological sequence of long, unbroken takes – largely static tableaux set against exquisitely minimalist interiors – ranging from on-stage creative constipation to joylessly clanking group sex, sterile hi-tech medical treatment to lonely, interiorised contemplation. John Cale’s ethereal soundtrack generally substitutes for dialogue and what little there is – a grieving row with husband Guillaume Depardieu, a recited poem, a radio discussion on Holocaust denial – remains stubbornly unsubtitled. Dalle does an impressive job of conveying suffering without courting sympathy, and the film efficiently mimics her character: perversely compulsive, impossible to engage with. There’s some suggestion that the titular process is one of self-abnegation: we see the actress packing up or burning her gorgeous belongings and personal effects, painting over a mirror, defacing her own photographs. Yet her descent remains painstakingly aestheticised and painfully stylish: as she grinds glass to ingest it’s hard not to notice her chi-chi pestle and mortar; when she takes delivery of a suicide kit the psychological ramifications are less striking than those darling little black sutured compartments stowing the pills and hypodermic. With so little emotional access volunteered, the film seems founded on faith in beauty and indifference towards humanity – including its audience.
Cast and crew