A young woman discovers the real world in this erotic legal procedural from French director Victoria Musiedlak.
Premiere Affaire is one of the juiciest films to hit the Piazza Grande at this year’s Locarno’s 76th edition.
Sex is variably at centre of any drama where the French are involved and Premiere Affaire has a clever title that cuts both ways: as a first love affair and a debut criminal case in the life of budding lawyer Nora, a mesmerising Noée Abita, who soon discovers that life is not as simple as it first appears. And Musiedlak, in her first feature, doesn’t give her main character a smooth ride in this classically styled ‘school of hard knocks’ outing.
Fresh out of law school, naive Nora, 26, is working in the Paris cabinet of a suave but sharp as nails commercial advocate when she opts to take on a pro-bono style criminal case, that of a gauche young man Jordan Blesy (Alexis Neises) accused of murdering his sister’s friend. Here, she will learn her first lesson: being a legal practitioner is not about championing right or wrong, but applying the Law in the context of the client’s plea.
The second lesson here is not to get emotionally involved with your client or your colleagues, for that matter. And Nora makes a faux pas on both accounts. She desperately believes Jordan to be innocent and brings her own feelings into the case instead of remaining detached. She also fails on the second count when she meets the police officer assigned to the case, Alexis (Danielsen Lie). The two eye each other up warily during the police procedural client examination where sparks fly. But while gamine and vulnerable, Nora is not one to be trifled with.
A feisty onscreen chemistry between Anita and Danielson Lie give these scenes a raunchy, provocative kick. Nora also discusses Jordan’s case privately with Alexis contrary to their professional remit, accepting an ill-considered ride in Alexis’ car which will invariably bring them closer. All credit to Musiedlak puts the accent on flirtation in the subsequent love scenes making them intense and titillating rather than uncomfortable to watch.
Clearly this is a story fraught with ethical and moral issues – not to mention racial tensions: Nora is of Maghrebi heritage and her mother is sceptical of her daughter’s career, encouraging her to settle down and marry. This family stress piles on the pressure for the young lawyer, adding negative undertones to her domestic life. At work too Nora is struggling to cope, burning the candle at both ends in taking on a case that runs contrary to her official remit in the commercial cabinet, so there’s never a dull moment, and certainly no easy answers when embarking on a legal career.
LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL | PIAZZA GRANDE 2023 |
Dir/Wri: Victoria Musiedlak | Cast: Noée Abita, Anders Danielsen Lie, Alexis Neises, François Morel, Saadia Bentaïeb | France, Drama