The work of the Swiss director Claude Goretta seems to have fallen into relative obscurity in recent years. The small number of user comments on this database in relation to the importance of this considerable artist would seem to confirm this. And yet there was a time in the '70's and 80's when his films were avidly sought after by art house audiences and at least one, "La Dentelliere", was rightly claimed to be a masterpiece. Like Eric Rohmer, Goretta has a deep understanding of the female temperament; at least three of his films ("La Provencale and "Chemins de l'exil" in addition to "La Dentelliere") are notable for depicting womens' responses to cold and selfish treatment by men. "Les Chemins de l'exil", which deals with the last years of the 18th century writer and philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is at its most interesting when highlighting his mistress, the barely literate Therese, who faithfully joins him only when she is required and then only on the understanding that they never marry. Dominique Labourier gives a marvellous performance as someone who has become sullen with pent up anger. After all, she had five children by Rousseau, each snatched from her at birth and sent to foundling homes on the pretext of the couple's poverty but more truthfully through Rousseau's fear that they could interfere with his work. In Francois Simon's carefully studied performance of the writer there is little to engage our sympathies. He is painted as a thoroughly selfish and irritable paranoid. If the film has a weakness it is that it is often too quick to go into reverential mode, particularly when Rousseau expresses a "profound" thought when standing alone in a picturesque landscape. This is curiously at variance with the generally unflattering picture the director expresses for his subject. Still even if these scenes are uncomfortably idealised, one can respect that the Arts sometimes have an infuriating way of throwing up mean characters who achieve great things.
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