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The subject matter of this film might seem intolerably grim. A mother
miscarries, a horror her religious beliefs must cheerfully suppress. Her
impoverished family are evicted; her husband and children become black
marketeers to make ends meet. She has a nervous breakdown.
Mercifully, PRIEZ POUR NOUS is a souffle of light comedy, not a million miles from LA VIE EST UNE LONGUE FLEUVE TRANQUILLE. You see, the family are impoverished aristocrats, and there is some fun in seeing Barons reading Communist papers, or the flushings of philistine prole neighbours audible at the dinner table.
Cosily nostalgic with possible political resonances (set in 1960, there is much mention of de Gaulle and the OAS), this is made watchable by the magnificently self-effacing performance of Samuel Labarthe as the sweetly duplicitous Baron.
The director Jean Pierre Vergne directed some TV movies but who was
unlucky when it came to direct movies for the silver screen before and
after "Priez Pour Nous": (le Téléphone Sonne Toujours Deux Fois, 1985
owed a lot to the "Inconnus" while Golden Boy, 1996 in spite of Jean
Claude Carrère at the scenario and Jacques Villeret's presence was a
total fiasco). Like its companions, "Priez Pour nous" doesn't reach at
all the scale of the masterwork.
The shadow of "La Vie Est Un Long Fleuve Tranquille" (1988), Etienne Chatiliez's finest piece of work to date hangs over the whole movie. Charles Gassot who produced this delicious film is responsible for the production but also for the scenario of the film. In the sixties, a ruined aristocratic family has no other choice than to settle down in a flat located in a popular neighborhood and to mingle with the working classes. While the numerous impish children strike up a friendship with tough young adolescents after however first not so tender contacts and the baron finally gets used to this new life as well as the maid, the baroness is cracking up and galvanizes her husband to look for a lascivious housing as soon as possible. But her husband who has to start to work sometimes illegally is the king of laziness and the children begin to discover the harsh side of life with their religious conception that collapse...
"Priez Pour Nous" doesn't match the grandeur of Chatiliez's film. The major difference with Chatiliez's cult film which turns to its disadvantage is that it lacks of dynamism and nerves. Such a story should have required a vehement disposition at all levels in the writing and shooting. Cues aren't as potent as they claim to be, directing is a bit listless and the onslaught at this bourgeois milieu is hardly discernible. The actors as a whole remain glued to a rather monotonous acting, especially Samuel Labarthe which trammel the credibility and hilarity of many moments. For instance, the baroness' madness is shown in a rather softened way which is a little hard to swallow. The whole looks like a TV movie.
In the end, "Priez Pour Nous" misses its target and can't claim to be a reliable supplier of genteel laughter. Not exactly the trusty heir of "La Vie Est Un Long Fleuve Tranquille".
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