★★☆☆☆Agnès B is a created idea from the imagination of Agnès Andrée Marguerite Troublé. Known to the world as a fashion designer she has always held a candle for what the French call the Seventh Art. After embracing cinema and its more errant enfant terrible auteurs, she has made the final leap and created her own feature film: My Name Is Hmmm (2013). She has long been associated with cinema, from an early tee-shirt that read: "J'aime le cinema" to the use of her clothing in films such as Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994), where Uma Thurman's character Mia Wallace is seen wearing an iconic Agnès B white shirt. Co-founder of Harmony Korine's production company O'Salvation, the cinematic world has known and loved her for her support of visionary filmmakers like Claire Denis and Gaspar Noé.
The title My Name Is Hmmm is a reference to the young girl at the centre of the film who refuses to give her real name (and is of course a nod to Agnès B's own renunciation of her birth name). The first phrase of the film's synopsis reads “a fiction”, and the last "when love just happens". This is indicative of the facile confused juvenilia that Agnès B has managed to conjure up . At first glance she has concocted a collage of every formal cinematic effect she has ever seen, from animation, black & white, stills, etc. This would be excusable in a twentysomething directing debutant arriving fresh from film school but not from a seventy-something professional woman who seems to have one to many aesthetic pathways, yet seems plagued by indecision and procrastination.
Desperately seeking an escape from her abusive father (Jacques Bonnaffé), Céline (Lou-Lélia Demerliac) runs away during a school trip to the seaside and hides in a parked truck. Revealing herself to the Scottish driver (played by Turner Prize winning artist Douglas Gordon) only once the vehicle is in motion, she forms an unlikely bond with him as they encounter a host of intriguing characters. From a surreal sequence in which a pair of phantasmal Butoh dancers, painted all in white, rhythmically move their bodies in slow motion amidst the oppressive silence of the forest, to a fireside philosophy lesson featuring a trench-coat-clad Antonio Negri, each of their new acquaintances is as eclectic as the film's restless diversity of styles.
For a road movie My Name Is Hmmm doesn't know or seem interested in where it's going. Approaching the point where it can be described as pejoratively dream like it always feels forced and unreal. The centre of the film seems to be a checklist of arthouse troupes that need to be worked through, from escape to sexual abuse to depression formed from mourning outsiders. This does the film and the filmmaker a disservice as there are gems here, yet they desperately need to mined and formalised in a less scatter gun manner.
D.W. Mault | @D_W_Mault