‘Wild Diamond’ Review: Agathe Riedinger’s Debut Empathetically Tracks A Young Woman’s Desperate Pursuit Of Fame – Cannes Film Festival

“Hater says I’m superficial,” muses one of the TikTok influencers who rule the version of the world that obsesses 19-year-old Liane in Agathe Riedinger’s Cannes Competition entry Wild Diamond (Diamant Brut). “Yes, I’m superficial,” continues the influencer, “but that doesn’t mean I’m a moron.”

Maybe not, but there aren’t many prospects for young women like her fan Liane (Malou Khebizi), whose adeptness at facial contouring, applying diamantés to her towering shoes and blowing kisses to her 50,000-and-counting followers are not generally regarded as marketable skills. Not in the old-school versions of the world, anyway; she can see that her middle-aged career counsellor, for all that she is worn down by Liane’s tantrums, pities her.

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Liane doesn’t see things that way. For her, being beautiful – her kind of beautiful, read: hot — is her future. It makes people look at her. They may look askance at her tight clothes and surgically mangled flesh. They may leer at her, if they’re men, then call her a slut when she doesn’t respond. But at least they’re looking, which means she’s not nothing. And if she succeeds in her audition for a reality TV show called Miracle Island – because she is, indeed, waiting for a miracle to change her nothing life – her beauty will become a career. She knows it is probably the only career open to her, when it comes to it. She’s not a moron.

Riedinger’s debut feature approaches her subject with remarkable empathy, taking Liane on her own terms and seeing her surroundings largely through her eyes. Khebizi, a non-professional actress from the southern French region where Liane lives, clearly understands Liane’s awkward mix of childishness and assertiveness. Liane is a muddle of motivations that don’t match each other, in fact, even though she could not articulate any of them.

She is fixated on her body, but takes no pleasure in it. She longs for love, but recoils when it is offered. When she tells Alexandre, the woman who auditions her for Miracle Island, that she wants viewers to see “the real me,” we wonder what that would be. So much of her – the prongs of her fake fingernails, her mouth swollen with acid, her unlikely abundance of hair, her grotesquely inflated breasts – is so proudly unreal that a real self is hard to pinpoint.

Riedinger’s script is essentially a portrait of Liane; she is in every scene. Obviously, there is a gulf of understanding between Liane and the majority of people likely to see this film, which gives it an unavoidable element of voyeurism. Riedinger and her cinematographer Noe Bach do fight this, using discreet distances and shadows to avoid fetishizing her hyper-sexualized body. There is also care taken to track Liane’s life without turning it into a pat explanation for her current appetite for excess.

We do get a few details, however, which are as grim as one might imagine. When she was younger, her mother Sabine (Andréa Bescond) put Liane in the care of the state. She spent three years in children’s homes. Now she is back in the family’s moldy flat, where her mother is no more competent or loving; she has a little sister called Alicia (Ashley Romano) she tries to parent, although her care largely extends to teaching her to twerk.

Her one true friend is Dino (Idir Azougli) whom she met in the children’s home, who has found a decent job fixing dirt bikes and who is quite frankly in love with her. As Liane’s foil, Azougli brings a genuine sweetness to a film that otherwise could provoke only a numb despair. What, you ask yourself gloomily, can little Alicia’s future be like?

And yet Liane never seems like a victim; texts from her followers, thrown up on the screen in occasional departures from the film’s naturalism, suggest that many revere her as a faith leader, keeper of a bootylicious flame. Despite appearances, Liane herself is surrendered to a superstitious kind of Catholicism; her destiny as a reality star, she tells her catty girl gang in all seriousness, is in God’s hands. It is only at the very end of the film that we have a sense that her inner life may be more complicated than this – or her desperate pursuit of fame – may suggest. Nobody could be that superficial, after all.

Title: Wild Diamond (Diamant Brut)
Festival: Cannes (Competition)
Director-screenwriter: Agathe Riedinger
Cast: Malou Khebizi, Andréa Bescond, Idir Azougli, Ashley Romano
Sales agent: Pyramide International
Running time: 1 hr 43 min

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