Anyone who’s seen Pietro Marcello’s Martin Eden will likely recognize the director’s fingerprints all over Scarlet. There’s the same haunting collage of colorized archival documentary footage and fictional scenes here, the same fascination with physical labor and historical moments of transition, the same loose approach to literary adaptation. Scarlet’s story is drawn from a 1923 Russian adventure novel but the action is transposed to post-WW1 rural France, where soldier Raphaël (Raphaël Thiéry) returns from the war to discover his wife has died and left him with a daughter, Juliette (Juliette Jouan). The local townsfolk reject the duo, but they manage to keep their head above water thanks to a kindly landlady with a storybook belief in magic and Raphael’s Geppetto-like skills at whittling beautiful toys from blank blocks of wood.
The fairy tale touches don’t stop there: the color grading and bucolic setting give the movie the look and texture of a fable, while Juliette is enraptured by a prophecy — given to her by a witchy forest woman — that tells her she’ll one day be swept away by scarlet sails in the sky. It’s a charming, if airy, yarn, but the craftsmanship in front of and behind the camera makes Scarlet a gorgeous escape.
Genre: Drama, History, Romance
Actor: Bernard Blancan, Boris Gillot, Ernst Umhauer, François Négret, Iliana Zabeth, Lolita Chammah, Louis Garrel, Noémie Lvovsky, Rémy Roubakha, Yolande Moreau
Director: Pietro Marcello