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Un air de famille
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Reviews & Ratings for
Family Resemblances More at IMDbPro »Un air de famille (original title)

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Index 23 reviews in total 

19 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Superbly observed microcosm

10/10
Author: chazzy-3 from Suffield, CT
10 May 2000

Mr. Klapisch continues to mark himself as one of the finest directors of his generation; with simple means, he tells tales which stick close to the bone of contemporary life, and he knows his territory quite well. This French family could not ring more true, and it is in the subtleties - such as the scenes of the "successful" son who is nonetheless hounded by the biting criticisms of his family - that Klapitch really distances himself from his contemporaries. There is little of the long-windedness or preciousness of some of the current flock of young directors, and his films never glibly mock their characters, which can leave more chilling - or uplifting - conclusions towards the end of their tales. It seems that every time a movie is adapted from a play people seem to harp on its "theatricality" - almost as a matter of course - yet this film works quite well on the screen, and the visual qualities of the storytelling are numerous, while the cinematography is superb throughout. I must also add that, despite the fact that we are discouraged from reacting to existing comments on this page, the comments of the reviewer from Dublin, Ireland are among the most ludicrous I have seen on these pages; Un Air de Famille - it is a superb title in French - is one of the finest films to come out of France in the last decade.

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14 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

witty, funny, no vulgarity: all that a good comedy can (and must) be

9/10
Author: dbdumonteil
9 January 2005

The movie "Cuisines et Dépendances" (1993) had revealed Jean Pierre Bacri/Agnès Jaoui's original talent. Here, "un air de famille" (1996) which is once again an adaptation of a play written by the duo constitutes a kind of extension and especially a clear improvement for them. This movie made by Cédric Klapisch is very superior to the first quoted movie although "Cuisines et dépendances" is a worthy work. The meeting Bacri-Jaoui-Klapisch shines to delivers a stunning flick. It is difficult to tell because it is so rich and crowded with incident that it would take several pages to sum it up. So, to tell you the main reasons that justify the vision of this film, I will go to the essential.

3 things confer to the movie a strong appeal. First, the scriptwriters have the remarkable gift to make sparks fly from the single cue and to let what is left unsaid and the suggested leak out. Dialogs are also their best weapon to revamp the middle-class' image but also to harm the characters' meanness and faults. This last feature enables to Bacri and Jaoui to distinguish themselves in the French comedy. It is their recognizable stamp to disclose certain faults that we have inside us but which we really don't want to admit. In this way, it is quite easy to identify with the characters. We have a little "air de famille" with them.

But "un air de famille" is also worth for Klapisch's accurate making with an outstanding work on the lighting effects. The lighted café contrasts with the dark restaurant in the background of the scenery. Moreover, the split of the family amazingly answers to the dreary aspect of the scenery. Little by little, the film becomes a stifling In Camera tempered by a few sequences which relate childhood memories.

In another extent, there's another strong point from Klapisch: the directing of actors which is flawless and well studied. Personally I think it is a real treat to see Jean Pierre Bacri coming and going in his café, with his sullen look. Beside him, Catherine Frot is irresistible in her role of silly woman while Jean Pierre Darroussin is the sole stable character in the middle of this family which is slowly breaking up. He also tries to bring his support and comfort to the members.

"Un air de famille" is a smart and ferociously funny movie. Jean Pierre Bacri and Agnès Jaoui rank among the finest comical authors of the nineties and Cédric Klapisch can without problem join the group of the best French film-makers of his generation. Don't miss this movie which will give you another image of the French comedy.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Family strife.

9/10
Author: kenneth groom (keng5@mac.com) from United Kingdom
30 June 2005

If like me you like French films, you will like this one. There is no plot to speak of and no time wasted in car-chases and violent action sequences. There is just fascinating dialogue and the interaction of interesting characters, plus the expression of real emotion and nuances of feeling. There is an intimacy with the characters that is typically French and which the Americans rarely achieve. At the end of the film you feel you know and understand these people and are wiser for having known them.

I loved the performance of Catherine Frot in the film. She was delicious and made the character of Yolande incredibly appealing and lovable. What a crying shame she should have shackled herself to such a self-centred, unappreciative husband. He was the luckiest man alive and yet too obtuse to realise it. How appallingly sad.

The high-light of the film for me was the little dance Yolande had with the quiet, philosophic bar-man Denis, played by Jean Pierre Darroussin, who, revealing his kind heart, offered to dance with her when her insensitive husband refused - despite the fact that it was supposed to be her birthday celebration. Denis's skillful dancing surprised them all, and disclosed a whole new aspect of his personality. There is a touching moment at the bar when Yolande, suspecting Betty's romantic interest and trying to encourage it, says to her with a lovely winsome expression; "He's a good dancer." And at the end of the film when Betty and Denis are seen to declare their love for each other, she says delightedly, to the chagrin of her snobbish and spiteful mother-in-law; "You know what this means? It means he's going to be part of the family."

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Well filmed dry social comedy by Jaoui and Bacri

8/10
Author: Chris Knipp from Berkeley, California
17 August 2005

The IMDb summary reads: "An upper middle-class French family celebrates a birthday in a restaurant. In one evening and during one meal, family history, tensions, collective and separate grudges, delights, and memories both clash and coalesce." Well, that's right but "upper-class" could be misleading. Upper middle-class, maybe. One brother is an executive, number 4 in a Silicon Valley type firm, but the other runs the bar -- it's more a bar than a restaurant, from what we see -- and it's no great success, more a sign of Henri's lack of ambition (that's Jean-Pierre Bacri) and the sister (Agnès Jaoui) works as an underling at the firm, and her boyfriend is the barman and she seems totally without ambition even to marry, at 30. The exec's wife is a rather ditsy blonde lady. One gets the impression that the family is somewhat going to seed. Henri's wife has just left him, Betty can't commit to anything, Philippe's totally insecure, their mom is a pain... This was a play written by Jaoui and Bacri and is full of their delicious dry humor, pettiness and grumpiness and keen social and psychological observation. I found it very funny but at the same time a bit depressing and somewhat static, since it's a play. To underline the static quality, one of the "charicters" is Caruso, a paralyzed dog. It doesn't "open up" as the 2000 Le goût des autres/The Taste of Others and the 2004 Comme une image/Look at Me do; on the other hand, the focus on personalities is even more precise. The "air" is bad air, but things don't end on a too unhappy note in this gentle, ironic comedy. Now that I'm following French dialogue more carefully, I enjoyed this a lot, including the social nuances I could catch about who gets called "tu" and who gets called "vous" and when. Klapisch keeps the camera moving but unobtrusive, adding a childhood flashback perhaps once too often, framing the story with a street panorama and a warm musical theme. To call Bacri "grumpy" may be redundant. I'm not sure what led Klapisch (who from L'Auberge espagnole seems to have a more lighthearted outlook himself) to direct this, and for Jaoui to start directing her writing with Bacri afterwards with Taste of Others and Look at Me.

The DVD by Fox Lorber is of unusually poor quality. You can't turn the subtitles on and off, and they came out half below the screen. There are virtually no extras.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A very simple story about people that seem vivid and real

8/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
6 August 2007

This is exactly the sort of film you'd never see coming from Hollywood, as it has no flashy stars, a very simple script and it's about people and relationships. While this might easily bore teenagers or those who long for explosions or boobies in their films, if you are an adult looking for a movie that doesn't insult your intelligence, then this is a movie for you.

The film's premise is simple. A mother and her three adult children and their spouses get together every Friday night for dinner at the same nearby restaurant each week. However, this night is different because one of the spouses (who you never see in the film) has just walked out and the time-honored tradition is thrown off kilter. It seems that because the usual routine is thrown aside, over the course of the evening, the normally happy family veneer is slowly pulled aside--revealing the ugliness and pettiness of some of them. Interestingly enough, the most interesting character in this whole thing is a non-family member (who works for one of the sons). In a way, he seems almost like an audience member watching the craziness and only later reacting to it. Fortunately, while there are some minor fireworks, all the family problems seem real and you can relate to them--this is NOT a tacky film where one person announces they are getting a sex change or another announces that they are having an affair with a chicken! No, the problems seem real and seething just under the surface. Additionally, how you perceive each family member changes a bit over time as more and more of the veneer is pulled away. One minute you like or are concerned about one of them, the next you want to slap them upside the head--just like a REAL family! I am glad that while the problems were revealed, there were no easy answers or pat resolutions. Like life, at the end, you are left wondering what will transpire next and I sure would love to see a sequel to this excellent picture. Good writing, direction and acting--this is such a simple but well-made little film.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Family Misfortunes

Author: writers_reign
11 December 2003

This is a vehicle from and for (they both appear in it) a very gifted team of writer/actors or vice versa and in some ways a dress rehearsal for their standout Les Gout des autres which would, a couple of years later, cop a bagful of Cesars and deservedly so. Unlike other commenters I don't find the obvious stage origins a problem any more than I do with say, Francis Veber's 'Diner du Cons', which works equally well in both media. I haven't, alas, seen the stage version of this though I would dearly love to. The writing is spot on, the characters are flesh and blood and one hundred per cent believable. It's one of those movies where we can say that, yes, we all know people like this. It would be churlish to single out anyone from this fine ensemble cast, including the two authors, suffice it to say that everyone turns in a great performance. One to see again and again.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Fabulous Film!!

10/10
Author: WilliamCKH from Northern California
22 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've seen this movie from start to finish about seven times and I probably will see it a few more times in the coming years. It's a film that I really love watching, especially late at night, when the rest of the world is asleep.

The movie deals with the unraveling of a family during a typical Friday dinner. Everyone has their personal problems and are all eager to discuss, and share them with one another, as usual. The crux of the story is the realization by Betty, the youngest daughter, of how she, and the rest of the family have mistreated Henri, the family "idiot" all these years. A small comment by Denis makes Betty finally come to see, clearly for the first time, the workings of the family dynamic. This epiphany gives Betty the courage to stand up for herself to her mother and her brother Phillipe for the first time as she becomes more sympathetic towards Henri.

The writing is so strong, the staging of the scenes so seamless with the plot, the characters each so unique and the acting of the ensemble cast so flawless. There are really no weak points to this movie. I love the scene where Yoyo is at a lost for words after receiving the dog certificate from her mother-in-law and all of a sudden she turns to joy when she hears music and is on the dance floor, flinging away her shoes, as she gets into it with Denis....to Patti Smith's People Have the Power no less. Catherine Frot really made an impression... and the last scene, where she kisses Henri goodbye and comments on how good the duck was and the last wave goodbye... that was priceless.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A birthday celebration."

Author: kenneth groom from Manchester, England.
21 January 2001

If like me you like French films, you will like this one. There is no

plot to speak of and no time wasted in car-chases and violent action

sequences. There is just fascinating dialogue and the interaction of

intereresting characters, plus the expression of real emotion and

nuances of feeling. There is an intimacy with the characters that is

typically French and which the Americans rarely achieve. At the end of

the film you feel you know and understand these people and are wiser for

having known them.

I loved the performance of Catherine Frot in the film, She was delicious

and made the character of Yolande incredibly appealing and lovable.

What a crying shame she should have shackled herself to such a

self-centred, unappreciative husband. He was the luckiest man alive and

yet too obtuse to realize it. Hows appallingly sad.

The high-light of the film for me was the little dance Yolande had with

the quiet, philosophic bar-man Denis, played by Jean-Pierre Darroussin,

who, revealing his kind heart, offered to dance with her when her

insensitive husband refused - despite the fact that it was supposed to

be her birthday celebration. Denis's skillful dancing surprised them all, and disclosed a whole new

aspect of his personality. There is a touching moment at the bar when

Yolande, suspecting Betty's romantic interest and trying to encourage

it, says to her with a lovely winsome expression; `He's a good dancer.' And at the end of the film when Betty and Denis are seen to declare

their love for each other, she says delightedly, to the chagrin of her

snobbish and spiteful mother-in-law; `You know what this means? It means

he's going to be

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A family

7/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
13 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Henri, the owner of the cafe 'Le pere tranquile' is facing a tough time. His wife, Arlette, has walked out on him. To make it worst, his family will be stopping by to pick him up to go to a nearby restaurant where, his sister-in-law Yoyo, is going to celebrate her birthday. It is closing time at the cafe, but Denis, the only employee, is cleaning up. Betty, Henri's sister, who evidently likes the barman, comes by to wait for the rest.

The three missing members of the family arrive. Philippe, the other brother, has been interviewed on television about his views on financial matters. He is an insecure individual who is the most successful of the three siblings. He comes accompanied by his domineering mother, and Yoyo his wife, the birthday girl. It becomes apparent that Philippe is the one the mother considered worthy of success, while Betty and Henri have not amounted to anything, in her mind.

The atmosphere of the cafe is charged. Dinner plans are abandoned when Henri's secret is known. While it does not come as a surprise, no one is really sorry for Henri. A small birthday cake is produced for Yoyo to cut and the singing of the 'happy birthday' is sung, but she is not too pleased with the celebration, or the ridiculous gifts Philippe and the mother-in-law have for her.

Cedric Klapisch, a director with a keen insight on people facing crises, directed the comedy which is based on a play by two of the stars of the film, Anne Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri. There was no attempt from Mr. Klapisch to hide the fact this is strictly a filmed play done in a one set, pretty much as it was the case in the theater when it was first seen. A family in turmoil is not exactly a groundbreaking plot for a movie, but to his credit, the director keeps things moving well, something that with another vision it would have resulted in a dull film. We saw the film when it first opened, but watching it for a second time, it puts things in perspective and found it more enjoyable.

It is clear the three brothers have gone in separate directions. The only one that has something to show in the way of achievements is Philippe, who shows he is such an insecure man, one wonders what made him rise in the corporate world. Henri was the son that stayed behind to run the family business. After fifteen years of marriage he finds now abandoned by his wife because of differences. Betty is a free spirit who wants nothing to do with success; she is only interested in the present, and that is what she is doing by getting involved with Denis. Yoyo, the wife celebrating her birthday is a woman totally dominated by Philippe. The mother shows no tenderness for anyone. All this is in sharp contrast with the loving family one gets to see in flashbacks.

The comedy is an ensemble piece where the cast gets to shine, but no one is singled out. Jean-Pierre Darroussin is Denis, the outsider who knows quite a lot about the family. Jean-Pierre Bacri plays the dejected Henri. Agnes Jaoui has some good moments as Betty. Catherine Frot continues to show why she is one of the best actresses working today. She does a terrific dance with M. Darroussin. Vladimir Yordanoff makes a hysterical and insecure Philippe. Claire Maurier is the mother. The director appears as the father in the flashback sequences.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

a sweet tale of family dynamics

7/10
Author: Henrietta Ashworth from United Kingdom
19 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'Un air de Famille' takes (as one might deduce from the title) 'Family' as its subject. Specifically, it centres upon one middle-class family in an unnamed town somewhere in France. This lack of specification of location makes the focus of the film abundantly clear; the petty rivalries, failed ambitions and unspoken resentments that characterise the 'family'.

As such, it is very well executed, with a funny and subtle script originating from the play by Jean-Pierre Bacri and Agnès Jaoui who also play, respectively, the family 'loser' Henri and his sister, Betty. It deals with the universal truth that we, as adults, constantly struggle with the stereotypes that our families thrust upon us as children. Henri is 'always screwing up', and Phillippe (Wladimir Yordanoff), the elder brother is the shining star that can do no wrong, at least in the eyes of their formidable matriarch 'Maman', played with terrifying reality and stomach-turning implacability by Claire Maurier. Betty, as a girl, 'didn't count' and as a result seems to shrink from responsibility and commitment at every opportunity, turning to her brother for work and rejecting a relationship with the sweet bartender, Denis (Jean-Pierre Darroussin).

The clash of these conflicting personalities takes place in one evening, as the family assemble to celebrate the birthday of Yolande, Phillippe's sweet and unappreciated wife. The is over-shadowed by Phillipe's anxiety over a two minute TV appearance and the disappearance of Henri's wife, played out against the backdrop of the seemingly bottomless insensitivity of their mother.

The dialogue is sensitive and gently comedic, as are the familiar and mundane situations the characters find themselves in, creating a touching and memorable story. However it is perhaps this that is the central problem of the film; dialogue and character is so much the focus that the film-makers appear to have deemed it unnecessary to transpose the action from play to film. As a result, 'Un Air de Famille' is incredibly static, the action taking place almost entirely in one building, Henri's dilapidated and 'undistinguished' café. While almost total uniformity of location can be an interesting and effective device in film (Lumets's 'Twelve Angry Men' being the most obvious example), the choice in this context appears careless and unimaginative, leaving the viewer (or at least this viewer) wondering what the claustrophobia was in aid of.

This is not to suggest that there is no creative film technique in 'Un Air de Famille', indeed, its use of mirrors and reflections as frequent counterpoints to shots adds an interesting sense of voyeurism. On top of this, it permits the viewer information unseen by the participants, as we observe reactions from characters behind or facing away from the camera. It is a clever conceit, adding meaning and, at times, comedy.

Ultimately, 'Un Air de Famille' is a very enjoyable, sweet and at times funny tale of compromised characters and everyday life. Its denouement, although hopeful for the characters of Betty and Henri, offers little hope for other characters, such as Phillippe and Yolande, but perhaps this is the point; it is observation and understanding that the film offers us, it is perhaps too modest to suggest a solution.

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