Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer
Please read the following if you:
1) don't know the names of the latest stars and have no desire to.
2) have never seen a Reese Witherspoon film, or
3) don't watch awards shows and don't want to.
If you agree with any of these, then this article is just for you. This week, I review two French films recently brought to DVD, Time to Leave and Gabrielle, both of which will be wonderful ways to kill two hours of your life.
TIME TO LEAVE (Le Temps Qui Reste)
Francis Ozon’s film Time to Leave, begins with promise: a solid cast, a director who is a veteran of the French film industry, and no shortage of sex, drugs and nudity. All the things today’s audiences look for in a film. Just released to DVD, the film now has the chance to reach a wider audience than it did in theatres last summer.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the plot, and most of you surely are, here’s a quick run-down. Romain, a young photographer, played by the handsome and brilliant Melvin Poupaud, is diagnosed with terminal cancer and has only a few months to find his purpose in life. Sure, we’ve heard this story before, but without the graphic gay sex and alternating musical score of thumping club anthems and the weepy, lone piano whose constant reappearance in the film becomes almost comical by the time our protagonist expires. The film is predictable, but scores a direct hit on an emotional level, with Romain’s trip to see his grandmother, played by the amazing Jeanne Moreau, in the south of France. During this trip he tells Grand-Mère his secret. This period in the film is ripe with beautifully filmed flashbacks to days of childhood play with his now-estranged sister, and crescendos with a wonderfully acted sequence of tears and remorse with the ever-watchable Moreau. We then put away our handkerchiefs, and for the next hour watch Romain engage in reckless and waffling behavior, such as fathering a child by a woman he doesn’t know, etc. He also patches up his relationship with his sister. A great way to acquit a character whom we’re not sure we like.
And then it’s all over.
So, we don’t really find out if our easy-on-the-eyes star finds his purpose in life. But one thing we know for sure is, he dies.
Bottom line: Watch this film if you like French cinema, French men, and French kissing. Otherwise, just pull out your old VHS copy of Beaches.
Stars: 3 out of 5
For those of you who like period films, check out the recent DVD release of Gabrielle. The film, directed by Patrice Chéreau, is a two-hour study of the doomed marriage of society couple Jean and Gabrielle Hervey, played by iconic French actors Isabelle Huppert and Pascal Greggory.
Chéreau succeeds in bringing new life to Joseph Conrad’s 1898 short story “The Return,” with superb acting, intentionally old-fashioned filmmaking and a scintillating script. Who can forget classic barbs like “Every morning I’ll make sure you’re in pain,” or “The thought of your sperm inside me is unbearable.” Wedged between their acidic and violent spats are silent-film-style intertitles that give the audience further insight into the crumbling marriage.
We are there only to see the last moments of a marriage in micro-detail. And it is the details of the film that guarantee its failure with the mass public, as the heart of the project lies in its screenwriting, character development, gender study, Napoleonic-era humor and costume design (hint: Gabrielle wears the trousers in the family, Monsieur Hervey wears the corset).
If you’re looking for happy endings, look elsewhere. Even Conrad himself, after reading the savage reviews of his story said, “I hate it.” And you will hate the movie, too, unless you enjoy innovative filmmaking styles and deep character study, or even more, revel in the historic misery of the French. For me, who cherishes all of the above, Gabrielle is a must-see film.
Stars: 4 out of 5