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Like most advanced film buffs, I watched the majority of Chantal Akerman's output as homework assignments, enjoying JEANNE DIELMAN and TOUTE UNE NUIT while being bored out of my gourd my most of her academic efforts. It's like taking castor oil as a child: it's good for you.
But like so many once trendy (and still revered by film festival programmers and pseudo-intellectual critics) but now creatively-spent auteurs, Chantal's more recent efforts are turgid and increasingly self-indulgent. Try the latest from Sayles or Jarmusch and you'll see how boring these middle-aged directors have become.
TOMORROW WE MOVE is a flat, by-the-numbers minimalist attempt at comedy. We're in Jacques Rivette country, but without his talent, creativity and nuttiness. Instead Chantal telegraphs every gag, repeats and underlines exactly what the viewer should be receiving in almost Hitchcockian manipulative mode, and insists on proselytizing her "message" in annoying fashion. It ain't funny, and is frankly embarrassing, given the quality performers employed.
For one, Jean-Pierre Marielle as the kindly realtor wastes the famous farceur's immense talent in a truly nothing role. He gets to dance around briefly with costar Aurore Clément, but even in many bad comedies I've seen him give César-worthy performances compared to this non-starter.
Clément, who in middle age retains that incandescent beauty that made her an instant star in LACOMBE, LUCIEN, is likewise wasted as the ditzy mother of heroine Sylvie Testud, portraying the Weinsteins. Meant to be a Polish Jewish family, I'm guessing this is an in-joke to cinema's most famous (apologies to the '80s femme producer of this name) Weinsteins, Harvey & Bob, the bad boys of the ongoing indie revolution. Or not.
Sylvie, who was memorable starring in Akerman's Proust adaptation LA CAPTIVE, is dependable as always in a rather thankless role as the director's largely "unformed" young woman. In one of Chantal's more annoying affectations, Sylvie is made to take in other people's statements like a sponge and parrot them "comically" back in order to appear up to date. This notably refers to the jargon and mannerisms of house/apartment hunting which is the film's nominal subject matter, and is presented in such an obvious and repetitious way that one can only nod and keep repeating to oneself: "That was meant to be funny; that was meant to be a gag". I think Abbott & Costello did this sort of nonsense definitively and Chantal should have looked to other sources, perhaps the ultimate icons of American humor for French snobs Frank Tashlin and Buster Keaton, for inspiration.
Film gets off to a rocky start with a visual steal (they like to call it "hommage") from Theo Angelopoulos as Clément's grand piano is suspended in air en route to arriving upstairs at the new apartment. This is repeated near the end of the film to bookend the proceedings, but Akerman foolishly repeats the reaction footage of Clément gasping, with exactly the same crowd of extras nearby. It's a film rookie mistake, usually seen in porn cheapies.
Testud spends the film writing porn for her publisher, taking mama's advice to look to others for inspiration. This is extremely unfunny material, with the French dirty words for anatomical parts used over & over, and even sung in an off-key ballad at the end of the film. No Chantal, this is not hip, this is the worst form of geriatric "with it" lame-o, like wearing blue jeans to appear young.
The array of quirky house hunters visiting Sylvie to get the grand tour is fitfully amusing, and would have been actually funny under the tutelage of a less heavy-handed director. The fact that they are mere puppets being used to set up idiotic gags is what is embarrassing. It all leads to a tacked-on, feminist/lesbian manifesto type of conclusion that is completely jarring.
As long as there are snobbish video companies (Kino International in this particular case) and the good ole boy (& gal) network of film gate keepers (film festival organizers, cinematheque honchos), the work of overrated hacks like Akerman will stay in distribution. Unfortunately, even amongst her countrymen (I've been watching many vintage Belgian films lately, by the likes of Delvaux, Kumel, Van Dormael and Berckmans) she doesn't measure up.
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