Cannes Review: Fabrice Gobert's Simon Werner Disappeared...
by Alex Billington
May 20, 2010
The official English title for this film is Lights Out, but that's such a bland and unrepresentative title, I'm sticking with the official French title - Simon Werner A Disparu... (with the ellipses), which translates to Simon Werner Disappeared... This is yet another new festival favorite that I discovered rather late in the fest, but I'm ecstatic that I caught it, because it was a breath of fresh air in a line-up that I haven't otherwise been impressed by this year. Simon Werner is, essentially, a fun lightweight exercise in the world of skewed high school gossip by way of a murder mystery. It's not a complete home run, but it was pretty damn good.
Although this is a high school film about a group of teens, it's not at all like "Degrassi" nor is it even similar to the documentary American Teen, but it is still an amusing look at the lives of a few French teens and how they're affected by the disappearance of a couple of their classmates. The best comparison I can make is to call this a French version of Brick, but it's quite a bit different and not as brilliant as that Rian Johnson film. However, if that sparks your interest, I suggest checking this out whenever it makes its way stateside, as it's entertaining and definitely worth seeing, at the least as a bit of well-made French cinematic entertainment.
What I loved the most about Simon Werner was the structure of its narrative, which features four different progressive vignettes for four different teens. Each time we see a bit more of the same series of events from a different perspective, learning new information each and every time. It was extremely well coordinated and impressively put together, although the lead up to the final few scenes and the conclusion didn't hit with the amount of force that I was expecting. We get to watch it all happen, we finally see what's going on, and that's it, no big revelation or shocking reveal or anything, but that's really my only major complaint about the film.
On top of that, Simon Werner uses a soundtrack comprised entirely of New Order songs, as it's set in 1992. There was one song in particular (which I can't exactly remember anymore) that was used multiple times as a central motif, since there is a party that's important part of the story and almost all of the characters are involved in it in some way. Overall, Simon Werner A Disparu... may not be the best film of the festival, but it's one that will be in my top picks once the festival is over, that is for sure. Be on the look out for this one!