Le Semeur (The Sower)

      Creed, hope, anticipation and despair,
Are but a mingling, as of day and night;
The globe, surrounded by deceptive air,
Is all enveloped in the same half-light.
(Victor Hugo, Prelude to “The Songs of Twilight”)

With beautiful imagery that seems straight out of a Millet painting, Marine Francen dazzles with her debut film (Shout Out to the French Film Festival at Lincoln Center for taking on a new director!). Inspired by Violette Ailhaud’s short story “L’homme semence”, Le Semeur (The Sower) follows Violette (Pauline Burlet) and the women in her French village as they cope with the arrest of all the men during the coup d’état of 1851. In the year that follows, the women agree that the next man to come to town will be shared among them in order to continue life until the men return. When Jean (Alban Lenoir), a mysterious and physically bruting man, arrives, feelings run wild and the pact is brought into question. A period piece, it never feels stuck in the past. Quite the opposite, Francen focuses on the female gaze and female desire in a celebration of sexual freedom.

Beautiful and lucious at day, cold and still at night, the village becomes a character all its own. Cinematographer Alain Duplantier does an amazing job at creating a town stuck between extremes. The daylight consists of colorful fields, golden wheat, and a wind simultaneously gentle and strong. All sways without worry. Nature and the women are at work. During night, the images consist mostly of stone buildings, remarkably sturdy, in a soft blue light that touches no one.

The actors, mostly unknown, bring life into an old setting. Violette (Burlet) and Jean (Lenoir) flirt endlessly with help from the words of Victor Hugo. Their scenes are erotic and tender, a beautiful portrait of love and sexuality rarely shown in a period piece, especially one during a time of political unrest. The supporting women bring a strong feminine energy that celebrates friendship and sexuality in an unexpected way. Particularly, Iliana Zabeth as Rose shows an emotional transition and honest depiction of a complicated friendship surprising for a supporting role.

Francen is a director worth looking out for in the following years. Her ability to create a smart and sexy film where the females have the power gives hope to us all.

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