“Louise By the Shore” (“Louise en hiver”)
Louise is an old lady who finds herself stranded in a seaside resort after the last train of the holiday season has left the station. She does not panic and decides to stay, no matter what and she soon finds out that the worst awaits her: foul weather, heavy rains, high tides. French director Jean-François Laguionie brings us a wonderful animated film that is delicate, gentle and mystical. It is a mature and deeply human tale about situations and ideas that are all familiar with.
Louise is a little old woman who spends every summer on the fictional coastal resort of Billigen sur mer. This film is about the one year that Louise misses her train home. Her story is about memory, the tides, death, solitude and survival, amongst other things— it’s about life and life is certainly more just one idea. Like life, Louise is much more than just one thing; she is someone who will have to take on this now-deserted seaside town, and even she will be surprised to learn what she is capable of. Louise builds herself a cabin and establishes a set of daily routines including cleaning sessions in her improvised home, showers at the public beach, graceful walks along the promenade at sunset and afternoon naps that bring up all sorts of past experiences and memories.
Louise is not alone in her adventures. Before long she comes across a dog, Pepper, who becomes her loyal defender and noble companion.
The animation is beautiful and was created using the gouache technique, where paint is diluted with water or other substances. Laguionie chose to paint the images himself, because he felt very personally connected to the story and he has said that the beauty of Louise is that she is someone who is reaching the end of her life and finds herself having to start over with an unusual task facing her. The task facing Louise is indeed an unusual one. The pastel colors remind us of impressionist paintings but I understand that there was no particular artistic style in mind and any similarities that the audience might spot are therefore unintentional.
The story is a tender, human story with rigor and plenty personality. We come face to face with “things that frighten us, move us, light us up or make us laugh”.
Louise values her peace and quiet so she barely even seems disappointed when she misses the last train of the season from the small seaside town where she likes to spend her summers. Rather, she claims to be more annoyed than afraid to be left alone in this abandoned town. We see everything from Louise’s point of view and it is not always easy following this story through the eyes of the occasionally confused and forgetful protagonist. Reality, fantasy, memories, and dreams are interwoven so beautifully that it isn’t always easy to tell which are which. We actually take a trip into a lonely woman’s mind and it is a beautiful experience to see this sad yet hopeful meditation on aging, memory, and looking back.