For two weeks, 20 male participants are hired to play prisoners and guards in a prison. The "prisoners" have to follow seemingly mild rules, and the "guards" are told to retain order without using physical violence.
A boy stands on a station platform as a train is about to leave. Should he go with his mother or stay with his father? Infinite possibilities arise from this decision. As long as he doesn't choose, anything is possible.
(Not to be mistaken for Jaco Van Dormael's eponymous award-winning movie (1996) starring Daniel Auteuil)
Marcel Hanoun has never taken the easy way .His more accessible work ,"Une Simple Histoire" ,a MTV effort -which was released in the theaters as well- told the story of a poor woman ,lost in Paris with her daughter,in a very austere way,without any touch of melodrama .
The same goes for "Le Huitième Jour" :the newspaper which could have led the movie into melodrama territory is only a way to help the heroine make up her mind.
The key to the movie is in Chartres where Françoise visits her folks ;after a walk with her mom (a cast against type Lucienne Bogaert) in a bleak street of a provincial town,Françoise takes one of her dolls out of her wardrobe ,put it on the windowsill and says "look" to the toy.
Françoise is an introverted lonely woman, a little self-centered and even selfish employee nearing thirty (Hanoun uses much voice over to depict her frames of mind).During the week ,she lives a monotonous life ,in spite of her neighbor's efforts ,a widower,to overcome her firm independence of men .The eighth day is Sunday :she opens up ,she's beaming ,in the only sequence filmed in color .
The neighbor's kid brother is a tad infuriating (and his scenes are closer to what we call "conventional"cinema) but it helps FRançoise to find her way to love in her too well-organized rigid world.
Without a great actress,I must confess the movie might sometimes have bored me ;but Emmanuelle Riva is not just anybody : perhaps the most gifted thespian of her generation, she's got a quivering sensitivity who triumphed in Resnais's and Franju's works.
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