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First of all, the DVD of this film is now available in France ( Sept
10th 2005 ) It contains both French and English subtitles ( wonders
will never cease !! ) plus numerous boni which are subtitled in French
Although French cinema had a heyday in the thirties, forties and even the beginning of the nineteen fifties, the general criticism applied to it at the end of the twentieth and first years of the twenty first century is that the films are "mou" or flabby. There may be a good idea now and then in the initial premise, but that doesn't necessarily make for viewer satisfaction in the "salles de cinéma" if the film itself is not carried out in a vivacious and lively way.
Happily, there are exceptions that confirm the general rule and "Les Soeurs Fâchées" is one of them. With a very limited plot ( one lady from the provinces making a visit to Paris and staying with her sister there ) the director has given us 90 minutes of excellent character study and percussive, cutting dialogue !! Both Catherine Frot and Isabelle Huppert put in truly magnificent performances in this film and let me assure the would-be spectator that there is not one boring moment ! Isabelle Huppert, beautifully freckly and good looking though she is has always had a tendency to interpret twisted, unhealthy or perverted characters in her films ... and this film is no exception. Her character is very unpleasant, intolerant, "coincée" or sexually repressed, impatient and unbearably snobbish .... I can confirm this is typical of a majority of Parisians to a greater or lesser degree !! Enter Catherine Frot, "la provinciale" adorable, friendly,spontaneous, natural, "naive" by Parisian standards, who has written a book and hopes to have it published by the parisian editor Grasset. Catherine Frot represents the simple, good-natured and uncomplicated, and unsophisticated person from the French provinces who is totally removed from the world of Isabelle Huppert but brings a breath of Fresh air into her stressed parisian life.
This difference between Paris and the provinces really does exist and although the characteristics are exaggerated in the film, I found it to be not that far removed from reality. There are moments when Huppert DOES realise she has an awful character, and repents but a few minutes later, this is forgotten and she's on the warpath again ! I am not sure whether the film would be that interesting for someone who does not live in France and does not know this profound difference between the parisian and provincial mentalities. When you have witnessed this first hand, the film with its dialogues takes on all its importance. The humour ( as such - as I don't know whether one can really call it humour - though there are a few moments where you smile ) vaguely recollects that distilled by the film "Tatie Danielle". If you've seen and appreciated the humour of the latter, then there are chances that you will appreciate this effort.
The dialogues of the film are surprisingly violent at certain stages and the spectator may be surprised or even shocked !! An excellent actors' performance in my opinion - and I would love to know how the film will go down in other countries !!!
I'm very surprised to find not a single comment on such a class act.
Okay, it's a new release but it IS five days old now. Anyhow it's so
good to see that Isabelle Huppert has temporarily abandoned her
apparent avowed intent to plumb the depths of sleaze in her ongoing
trawl through the sewers of the world and return to what she does
better than most actresses anyplace, anytime, anywhere that this could
be a stinker and it would still be a breath of fresh air. As it happens
it's anything but and Huppert and Catherine Frot are twin delights.
Huppert is the chic, snobbish wife living in the right arrondissement,
checking accounts in all the right places and the right kind of husband
to pick up the tab. The wonderful Francis Berleand scores as the
unfaithful husband who can't stand sister-in-law Frot; normally that's
not a problem since Frot lives in the provinces but now she's written a
book and has come to town to rubber-stamp a publishing deal and will
spend three days with Huppert and Berleand. What we have is a very
low-key take on Neil Simon's Odd Couple with Frot being everything
Huppert is not and vice versa. Frot, fresh from playing a Tyrant's
Tyrant in Vipere au poing turns up here as the kind of lovable kook
that Shirley MacLaine was always being cast as but could never quite
bring off because she couldn't do lovable (she couldn't do kook either
if anybody ask you but that's another story), and she shows Maclaine
just how it's done.
Okay, we're talking soufflé here but it's a French soufflé, hand-made at Maxim's. Eat, Enjoy.
Despite occasional overacting, this movie contains some interesting psychological and sociological insights. Most of the situations are plausible, even when they contain stereotypes. Although Martine's character could be construed as vicious and riddled with over-the-top intolerance, in the end she arouses more pity than contempt. Her younger sister Louise, fresh from the provinces and utterly devoid of sophistication and savoir-faire, in the end turns up trumps, a modern version of Andersen's ugly duckling. All the minor characters appear credible, as they witness with patient puzzlement the increasingly hysterical outbursts of the Parisian sister. A subtle touch is provided by Martine's unprepossessing little boy, who should be, but isn't, the logical comfort to his mother's depressive condition. If there is a moral to this fast-paced middle-class comedy, it is that no intelligent woman should sentence herself to merely being a wife and mother. Louise, on the other hand, has twigged this, and triumphs in the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Alexandra Leclère has made a wonderful first feature; I was entertained
throughout this funny and sometimes bitter film about a provincial,
somewhat naive and emotionally open woman (Catherine Frot) who visits
her older sister (Huppert) who lives with her husband and son in Paris.
Martine can't stand Louise's gaucheness, her forgetfulness (forgetting
her wallet at home before visiting a dress shop) and the way Louise has
of opening her heart to strangers. The dinner party at Martine's flat
is wonderful: Louise is telling the guests of her past love, while
Martine gets drunker and more aggressive every minute. The last laugh
is on Martine, of course: her husband has been having an affair with
her old friend Sophie.
I have had harsh things to say about Isabelle Huppert in the past, but here she is wonderful. She plays the frantic jealousy of her character to perfection: there is a scene (shocking, violent) when Martine reads the letter from their mother to Louise, in which the mother rejects her daughters, saying she does not want to see or hear from them again. The triumphal anger of Martine and the distress of Louise are palpable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If the readers will forgive a personal note (which I usually don't
indulge in), Les soeurs fâchées is the last of the 10 films I watched
in the Hong Kong International Film Festival, a good mix comprising 2
French, 2 Japanese, 3 Chinese and 3 American.
Depending on the viewers' mood, Les soeurs fâchées can be enjoyed as a light comedy surrounding, or a deeper probing into the characters of the two sisters. Whichever way you choose to look at it, you would first notice the deliberate contrast between sophisticated city creature Martine (Isabelle Huppert) and awkward provincial out-of-towner Louise (Catherine Frot). The irony is that Louise who never seems to know where to put her hands is never really out of control while Martine who is so composed is a walking time bomb, liable to fly off the handle any time the snapping point in reached.
Sibling rivalry is, as often, in the root of things. Although the background is kept vague (maybe intentionally), we see and hear enough to know that the sisters, back at the time of their humble origin, were very much alike, failures in the regular education system and generally abandoned by their mother. Martine presumably acquired her present status through marriage while Louise stays at pretty much the same level of the social scale.
And here comes the strangest thing: it's Martine who becomes furiously jealous of Louise on just about every score. First, Louise has become a self-taught writer and just got her first book published (reminds me of the poor chap in Sideways). And then, Louise has reconciled with their mother while tough as she may try to look, Martine must be longing for that same reconciliation which has somehow eluded her. As a final straw, while Louise had enough guts to break away from a marriage that didn't work out and followed her own desire, Martine found that her own husband has not only been fooling around but is also doing it with her best friend.
Nothing seems to be particularly original in terms of story and plot. But when put together in the crisp, witty script, acted by two superb actresses and packaged with beautiful shots, lucid editing and well chosen music, the film becomes a vastly enjoyable experience.
This comedy of manners depicts too opposite sisters in a satire that is
too crude and clichéd to be really moving. The Paris/province (rest of
France)divide is a source of inspiration for many French comedies but
the rotten humor and the engaging characters cannot make up for the
very predictable plot.
Some moments are really funny though, there is a kind of tenderness in the caricatured portrait of each sister so all in all it's not such a bad try for a first film.
Eventually it's more a duel of two styles of acting, an encounter of 2 different actress with their own class. Not exactly a good film but a pleasant shot.
Fantastic acting, very entertaining. Though the things which happen in the movie are not always nice, it has been long since I have followed a movie with so much enjoyment from the first to its last minute. Not having read anything about the movie before, I was open to let the action surprise me. I recommend anyone not to read to much about the storyline before watching it, but just go and watch. To answer one of the comments above, yes, the movie is also interesting for people not familiar with the Paris-Countryside clinch (such as me). I think it is because the feelings/situations transported in it, though set in a French framework, are universal. There have been situations in my life when I have felt more like the one or like the other sister. Different as they are, the reactions of all characters are completely understandable. The movie does the trick to combine affectionate caricature and merciless realism. This is why the movie is catching and moving, while at the same time you are observing and enjoying from a kind of layd-back perspective. I just realize that might be the reason why the action never made me feel embarrassed, and allowed me to watch at times with some voyeuristic indulgence. Yes, the movie does not condemn any character, but brings affection for human imperfection. If you like the taste of film food which is a quite perfect dish of different flavours, go watch.
The film "Les Soeurs fachees" is very moving. It really comes alive because of the two extraordinary lead actresses. Especially the wonderful Isabelle Huppert. She is amazing the way she can express emotions, during the movie, without saying a word. You can read it all in her beautiful face. During the movie you get to know, nearly in every scene, how different these sisters are. The cold, unhappy Martine and the nice and friendly Louise. It proofs how important are goals for you life, and it's never to late to change something,to become happy. A wonderful true french film, refreshing, charming, sad, might make you laugh and cry. Loved it. I would definitely recommend it to everyone who loves great cinema with talented actors, and dislikes Hollywood Studio Movies.
Well I have not seen the movie yet and will have to wait 10 hours for
this to happen. My point to come here is to talk about the lack of
thinking behind the tittling in English. "My sister and I" is not even
search able for this film and returns an Italian film. I had to look at
Isabelle Huppert's credit to find it and had to be or at least
understand french to get the right movie. I wish original tittles were
also given in reviews. I will not suggest a more appropriate tittle
although i could think of a couple and have to admit that literal
translation does not work too well here. I did like what other have
written about it and am looking forward for a spicy time tonight :) and
will come back to put my five cents of thoughts on it. MB
June 2008!I'm not permitted to make another entry so I added this here. I'm quite surprised on two counts, 1) My 2004 comment came up with the main page! and 2) There are so few entries for this tittle, it really deserves better. "Me and My Sister" (In French "the sisters crossed with each others")was screened on our Sydney TV last Sunday. I had an idea I saw it before! But decided to watch it again. I can't remember exactly my feelings about it when I first saw it at the cinema (that I was supposed to report on!). However I did enjoy very much the second viewing. The contrast of these two characters is so well exposed and acted out. The provincial sister is actually quite thick and although the Parisian resort to extreme nastiness you can't help to feel for her who lives so much in such a superficial world, yes she's only a facade of success. She's pitiful but fits well this superficial world. But she's not naive or stupid and so get much hurt from her "Simple Simone" sister oozing with goodness and who turns into a high achiever. I thought it was an interesting ride and not boring in the least. The ending tries to tell you that blood is thicker than high emotions - So be it. Thank you for some much better written entries I read a while ago and to which I can well associate with and would have like to write myself as an ex Parisian but who spent more time in rural regions I have experienced a little of both "status"!- Even during my military service, and here obviously talking about men, the Parisian snobbery was still apparent and sometimes subject of "down to earth" reactions! But here no such a thing, yet it's riveting at times. MM
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