In 2016, filmmaker Frank Beauvais, age 45, broke up with his boyfriend. Breakups are seldom fun, but this one brought the additional disadvantage of leaving him single and stranded in the tiny village in Alsace where he had moved six years previously with his partner. The advantages of village life over Paris—proximity to nature and a lower cost of living—seem less relevant now that the relationship is over, and Beauvais does not find himself to be a natural fit for small-town living. He expresses this through a series of complaints so extensive and frequently petty that they verge on self-satire, He feels stranded because he has no driver’s license and there’s no public transportation nearby. The winter’s not properly cold, just boring and gray. He feels alienated from the clannish locals, who regard him as a foreigner. He’s annoyed by the lack of shops and ATMs, the summer tourists, and even the local dialect, which he finds “polluted with germanisms.” And so on.
Lacking the means to pack up and return to Paris, Beauvais decides to double down on his isolation, withdrawing from the world as much as possible and spending his time watching movies. This resulted in his viewing 400 films, up to five per day, between April and October. Clips from those films, edited together by Thomas Marchand, make up the visual portion of Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream (Ne croyez surtout pas que je hurle), which provides both backdrop and counterpoint to the narration, written by Beauvais, explaining how he lived and what he was feeling, with excursions into the past, and philosophical and occasionally surreal ruminations, as well.
How could he afford this? Through the miracle of the internet—Beauvais proclaims himself a master of illegal downloading, and also took advantage of the countless films available legally for free, from YouTube channels, public domain archives, and the like. Fortunately, his tastes are broad, and his cinematic diet during this time included “silent movies out of copyright, pre-Code Hollywood gems, incunabula of Soviet cinema, Scandinavian erotic films, gialli, pink films, German dramas, 70s Euro-thrillers…” and, for the curious, there’s a list of the films included in the credits sequence. Truth be told, I’ve seen more than a few of the films included, but I didn’t recognize most of them from the brief clips included in Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream.
Beauvais presents himself as a bit of a pill, disdainful of his neighbors and failing to recognize the First World nature of his problems. The narration is presented in deadpan fashion, forcing the viewer to interpret for themselves the emotional content of what is being said. The constantly changing background of film clips, most only a few seconds long, provide a sort of forward momentum that makes this young curmudgeon easier to take. Besides, many of his comments are insightful, if not particularly kind, and you have to give him points for honesty, because he is at least as hard on himself as he is on anyone else.
Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream is a film unlike any other I have seen, and that’s a fair accomplishment considering that I’m practically mainlining films myself these days as the pandemic lockdown drags on and on. There’s a sort of pure pleasure that can be produced by watching moving images on film, independent of any story being told, and there’s a lot of that pleasure in the isolated clips that make of the visuals of this feature. Some of the clips come close to mickey-mousing the text, but many others have no obvious relationship, giving the whole enterprise a pleasingly surreal air. This is one of those films the you will either like or hate almost immediately, and if, like me, you are in the former category, you’ll find watching it to be a richly rewarding experience. | Sarah Boslaugh
Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream is distributed virtually; the KimStim web site has links to the theaters from which it can be streamed, and the play dates.