Probably not intended to accompany a night of curry and lager withthe lads.
Resnais' distinguished Nouvelle Vague career (e.g.: Hiroshima, mon amour - Stavisky - Life is a bed of roses) demands that we give this film our serious consideration. A faithful cinematic version, in French, of a play by the great contemporary English dramatist Alan Ayckbourn, the whole enterprise might appear to superficial critics as an impossibly eccentric undertaking: A quintessentially English comedy of manners turned into a film by an entirely French team! How can two such diverse national temperaments as the Gallic and the English possibly cohabit in any meaningful creative enterprise? Well, this is the challenge, of course, and there were once philistines who thought even Shakespeare could never be attempted en Francais. The interest of this film lies, indeed, very largely in the attempts of all concerned to acculturate themselves to an alien perspective; naturally, the results are mixed, and no-one fluent in English would want to deprive themselves of the version originale. However, a talented group of French actors succeed commendably, on the whole, in communicating the very particular English humour of the play. For this chance to increase their repertoire, the actors have to thank Resnais, whose choice of Ayckbourn was far from merely eccentric. He has obviously recognised in the Englishman a person who is as typically obsessed as himself with opening up narrative structure, and in finding more creative ways to tell a story. Though a very strange hybrid (especially for an Anglophone!) the enterprise is no monstrous abortion, but actually a very elegant and worthwhile tribute by our neighbours across La Manche. This is a most attractive film version of Ayckbourn's drama. It even succeeds in retaining a great deal of the downright hilarity of the original, which, in their plays, the fellow-countrymen of Shakespeare have learned early to intermix with the sadder side of life. In other words, we have here a suitably touching, hilarious and clever, and, moreover, a fascinatingly unexpected, version of a great original. Authentic Ayckbourn, comme Resnais authentique. Shame on us in Britain that it is not commercially available here!
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