Screened as part of NZIFF 2002
"Bound by a classical shape and absolutely spellbinding imagery, Deep Breath, the first feature of 33-year-old Damien Odoul, is a startling and provocative work by a filmmaker who clearly has put a great deal of thought and personal conviction into the material… Shot in highly textured black and white, and set in the sun-bleached landscapes of the open fields of France’s Limousin region, Deep Breath opens with assured, serene images of rural life punctured by an act of butchery. It sets in motion Odoul’s penchant for extreme shifts in subjectivity and tone. The thin, relaxed story details the emotionally crippling experiences of David, a 15-year-old, kicked out of school, who has been exiled for the summer to work with his two uncles in their isolated farm village. David is enraptured with images of freedom and escape. He tries desperately to assert his freedom and individualism. ‘I walk any way I want, even sideways if I feel like it,’ he says…
Odoul has a shrewd, confident way with group interaction, smoothly binding the grizzled, highly particular supporting characters into an almost ecstatic musical flow. David spends much of the film under the near hallucinatory influence of wine he imbibed during a highly ritualistic lunch he shares with his uncles and their friends. Gripped by fever dreams fracturing both memory and time, the appearance of his father and the highly sexual presence of his girlfriend, David moves in a perpetual dead space between feeling and dread, trying desperately, like many of Bresson’s conflicted characters, to achieve some form of salvation.
Significantly, like Bresson, Odoul works exclusively here with nonprofessional actors, and he captures with uncanny precision the purity and expression of casually amoral youth. With the other villagers a succession of eccentrics and enigmatic figures, David has only one possible soul mate, the quiet and resourceful Matthieu. Both are in pursuit of something that hovers near them, that which cannot be fully articulated and acknowledged, and it is that very unknown that holds promise and tragic repercussions." — Patrick Z. McGavin, indieWIRE
"Smashingly shot in austere black and white, Damian Odoul’s first feature might be termed an anti-idyll. A spotty, ungainly, rambunctious kid – spending a boring summer on his uncle’s farm – is allowed to get drunk with the guys and goes on an extended bender. Odoul rivals Bruno Dumont in celebrating what Marx termed ‘the idiocy of rural life’." — J. Hoberman, Village Voice