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António Rodrigues Sousa,
João Rocha Almeida,
The comfortable daily routines of aging Parisian actor Gilbert Valence, 76, are suddenly shaken when he learns that his wife, daughter, and son-in-law have been killed in a car crash. Having to take care of his now-orphaned grandson, he struggles to go on with his lifelong acting career like he's used to. But the roles he is offered -- a flashy TV show and a hectic last-minute replacement in an English-language film of Joyce's Ulysses -- finally convince him that it's time to retire. Written by
"Je rentre a la maison" is an elegant exploration of aging and personal loss directed by 93-year-old Manoel de Oliveira.
"Je rentre a la maison" opens on the stage of a rather seedy theatre in Paris during the closing act of Ionesco's absurdist drama "Exit the King" - exit the king indeed!
Portraying the old king is Gilbert Valence (Michel Piccoli), a well known Parisian actor, who like the king is coming to the end of his career. Piccoli no sooner steps off stage than a group of somber friends deliver to him the bad news that his wife, daughter, and son-in-law have just been killed in an auto accident. All that now remains of his family is his young grandson.
In this remarkably understated film Oliveira uses long takes, a rarely moving camera, and natural background sounds to emphasize what's going on in the faces of his actors. After a summer of films like "Fast and Furious," "Rat Race," and "Rush Hour 2" it is a relief to be able to slow down and indulge in the more subtle nuances of the filmic art.
One of the movie's most treasured moments occurs when Piccoli is cast in an English-language film based on James Joyce's novel, "Ulysses." Appearing in a cameo role as the director of this movie-within-a-movie is John Malkovich who takes full advantage of Oliveira's long take close-ups of him as he sadly watches Piccoli having difficulties with his lines. The last shot in the film is also a long take of the face of Piccoli's grandson as he watches his grandfather pause on the landing while making his way up the stairs to his room.
"Je rentre a la maison" is a low-key version of Scott Hicks' more thickly romantic, "Hearts in Atlantis," which has a similar theme.
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