UNE HISTOIRE AMÉRICAINE || 2015, France || Drama || Directed by – Armel Hostiou / Written by – Armel Hostiou, Lea Cohen, Vincent Macaigne / Produced by – Valentina Novati, Gaelle Ruffier, Nicolas Sanfaute, Jasmina Sijercic / Cinematography – Mauro Herce / Editing by – Carole Le Page / Starring – Vincent Macaigne / Running time: 86 mins.
The irony in the original title of Armel Hostiou’s feature, which translates from French as “an American story,” is somewhat ironic. Despite the fact that Stubborn revolves around the theme of love, it looks like it as a pathology more than as that thing that makes you feel bubbly inside, which is the way in which it is classically portrayed in the vast majority of American films. The fact that the story is based in New York, the setting of many memorable romantic films, deepens this contrast and enhances its poignancy.
The narrative is driven by its leading character, Vincent (Vincent Macaigne), a Frenchman who travels to New York to make a desperate attempt to win his American girlfriend back. In the beginning of the film, they have one final date, but he is unable to accept that this is the end of their relationship. This is where the film becomes darker, and his further attempts at getting her back become more intrusive, making him look more needy and creepy. All this despite meeting another girl, who is fun and adventurous and with whom he seems to hit it off.
Stubborn plays with its sense of humour very well. The awkwardness of the situations as well as the good rhythm of the film, makes some of its sequences laugh out funny. Macaigne, in his dominating performance, even seems to recall Roberto Benigni’s clownish turns in Jarmusch films, even through his restricted knowledge of the English. But he is also playing the role of a sad clown, even dressing up like one at some point in the film. His jokes and overall playful nature is born out of a state of internal psychological struggle that progressively leads him on a path of self destruction.
Finally, the final third of the film shifts abrubtly from a Woody Allen type of storyline into one overcast by bleak overtones, where no more laughs are to be had. This change is undoubtedly too abrupt, and rather than being shocking, it is pretty alienating. Originally, Hostiou had intended to make a short film, before opting to turn it into a feature and returning to film a final, harrowing act. This sharp twist does, however, shine a light on another important aspect of the film – New York City, a character in the film in its own right. What was once an exciting, unfamiliar place for Vincent, is now unbearably hot and overcrowded, and shows how lost Vincent has become.
Stubborn is a film that feels painfully real not only in content but also in aesthetics thanks to Mauro Herce’s handheld cinematography, and a colour saturation that brings it close to the aforementioned comedy dramas of the American New Wave, with influences from documentaries. A lot of the dialogue is also vivid due to some use of improvisation, making each sequence even more unpredictable, further teasing the audience in the expectation of some type of positive outcome. – 4/5