The streaming service MUBI, which is available by subscription, has announced that it is moving into the realm of releasing movies theatrically. They have picked up the Cannes winner for Un Certain Regard, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, for theatrical release next year. But their first movie to be released theatrically is the French-Belgian film Baden Baden.
In many ways, Baden Baden is the perfect first choice for a theatrical distribution by MUBI. The film first premiered at Berlinale in the Forum sidebar, and feels like the type of film that would be lost in the shuffle and wouldn’t have the same impact on a small screen.
Fortunately, Rachel Lang’s debut film feels authentic and lived-in, necessitating a theatrical audience getting the chance to enjoy the slow pace and dreamlike feeling of the movie. This isn’t a film that needs to be inauthentic, and this includes in its praise. Salome Richard is excellent in the lead role as an aimless kid-twenties character named Ana. She returns home to Strasbourg to work on a home renovation project, but is really considered with finding herself and her place in life.
Obviously this description sounds a little bit broad and cliché, sort of like a Gallic Greta Gerwig film (and yes, Frances Ha did have a segment in Paris), though Baden Baden is far more relaxed despite its short length (the opening scene of Ana driving is far more examined than it would be in a North American film). Also, the absence of make-up and use of many outdoor scenes helps the film feel like its spa town title, with many scenes set in and around water. It’s a gem of a film that will not resonate with each viewer, but the theatrical release coupled with a relatable lead makes this film seem quietly revolutionary and worth a viewing.