First Affair (2023) Premiere Affaire | Locarno Film Festival 2023

August 9th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir/Wri: Victoria Musiedlak | Cast: Noée Abita, Anders Danielsen Lie, Alexis Neises, François Morel, Saadia Bentaïeb | France, Drama

A girl discovers the real world in this erotic legal love story 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 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 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 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: don’t get romantically involved with your colleagues. Enter the police officer assigned to the case, Alexis (Danielsen Lie). The two eye each other up warily and Nora, while gamine and vulnerable, is not one to be trifled with, giving the film its raunchy style. And credit to Musiedlak who opts for a feminine touch making their love scenes intensely 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 and provides the negative undertones so frequently present in intergenerational narratives of this kind. Meanwhile, Nora is 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 in this stunning first feature from the French writer/director. MT


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