SCREENED AT THE 2006 CINEVEGAS FILM FESTIVAL: Are memories are a foundation that we cannot live without? How far would we go to preserve them even if we never had any intention of revisiting them? Those questions are just the tip of the languidly odd L'Annulaire, which puts a ravishingly Amelie-like heroine in a place of employment where secrets are contained and the past sealed. In other words, it’s French. Very French. The kind of French where nudity and sex is a staple and its existentialist finale is overflowing with interpretation and the ability to make most audiences go “Huh?” I can’t say with any certainty that I have the definitive explanation of what our heroine walks into but the journey was easily intriguing enough for me to pursue further theories.Iris (Olga Kurylenko) should be featured in an industrial safety film after she slices off part of her finger on a bottling line. (Makes you think twice about ordering the pink lemonade.) Searching out a more digit-friendly job, she comes across a man (Marc Barbé) operating the business of memories. Customers come to his office and ask to have precious items preserved. A restoration here, a jar there and some formaldehyde later and you’ve got a client base that never reclaims their mementos and only occasionally revisits them. Certainly giving new meaning to “odd jobs”, but Iris takes the position of his receptionist and will find herself with many other positions soon enough.
Her new boss has a few fetishes (or uniform requirements) such as the red pumps he prefers her to wear around the office. There’s also the matter of the previous secretaries, all of whom never seem to be heard from again. And what of the converted office where they do business? Once home to an all-girls school, their ghosts are occasionally a reminder of both tragedy and sensuality that Iris could be walking straight into with the doctor’s casual acts of containment.
Kurylenko, with her ravishing beauty, makes the mysteries of L'Annulaire go down smoother as we lose sight of the peculiar operation and head into more metaphysical ruminations. As a professional model, Kurylenko is no stranger to silence (saying it all with her face), and she turns Iris into a suitable replacement for the romance-starved Amelie as she pines for the sailor sharing her flat and her perplexed commitment to her new employer. The soft, sterile cinematography by Alain Duplantier adds to the omniscient limbo which Iris finds herself in.L'Annulaire has both an eccentric sensibility and, ultimately, a spiritual quality that should have audiences debating the final scene for hours. Iris’ journey from bored girl on the assembly line to woman faced with free will in the presence of being controlled; just another memory. Kurylenko is certainly a presence worth remembering and one definitely worth holding onto. Much like Steven Shainberg’s Secretary, it depicts a relationship not always meant to be understood by paying customers where the sexual control does reside with the woman, proving that one doesn’t always need a wedding band or a place to wear it in order to feel complete.