Diego is one of the chief of the spanish Communist Party. He is travelling back to Paris (where he lives) from a mission in Madrid. He is arrested at the border for an identity check but ... See full summary »
Clive Langham (Sir John Gielgud) spends one tormenting night in his bed suffering from health problems and thinking up a story based on his relatives. He is a bitter man and he shows, ... See full summary »
Martine and Jacques knew their friend before he became an important television personality, but have not seen him for over ten years. They are hospitable people - witness the fact that they... See full summary »
Odile is looking for a new, bigger apartment. Her younger sister Camille just completed her doctoral thesis has fallen in love with an estate agent who is responsible for Odile's apartment ... See full summary »
There are actually 8 versions of the play "Intimate Exchanges", but the director cut two of the possible outcomes in order to streamline the process. Also, the material in them was thought to be 'too British' for easy translation. See more »
These two gems have are an experimental, laid-back affair: instead of upping the ante visually, they have chosen to embark the viewer into a labyrinth of a plot, peppered with unforgettable dialogues served by nine characters, all played by two actors. Add to this the fact that this is also meant to be an anthropological view of that most bizarre people -the rural British- and you have a pair of truly unique and endearing movies, cinematic twins if you will.
Smoking and No Smoking end up being a double-treat: one of the most mordantly funny British comedy in years and possibly the best French films of their decade. The fact that Ayckbourn's spirit still flows with manic glee, filtered by Jaoui and Bacri's masterful adaptation, is a sizable feat when you know that French and British humors are generally deemed totally incompatible.
But despite the great texts, the unique sets (intentionally "theatrical"), the perfect, low-key costumes and the impeccable direction and editing, the real showstoppers are Sabine Azema and Pierre Arditi's with their multiple performances. Each and every one of their characters is played memorably, making for far more than an extended acting stunt on their part: you actually feel for and connect with each and every one of their incarnations, forgetting completely that they are played by the same actors, you are drawn into their characters' sometime painful, sometime painfully funny dilemmas (which all get resolved since all the possibilities are shown).
This is a UFO to me: a hilarious, touching comedy with absolutely no flaws (even though some have said the running times were a little self-indulging), an experimental film that "works" and never feels forced, a triumph of acting... I suppose some will find it overbearing, but actors, directors and screenwriters alike should make this one of their necessary (albeit hard-to-come-by) viewings because if you're caught by the magic on screen, you won't be turning back. Although the films can be seen in any order, i would recommend you start with No Smoking as it offers a more supple introduction to the films' "method" and characters and also because Smoking is probably the better of the two and thus, you've got a dramatic crescendo going for yourself.
For people who don't necessarily like French cinema or who don't understand the British: watch these,they're the kind of movie miracles that belong to everyone. They are that great.
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