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A successful artist, weary of Parisian life and on the verge of divorce, returns to the country to live in his childhood house. He needs someone to make a real vegetable garden again out of the wilderness it has become. The gardener happens to be a former schoolfriend. A warm, fruitful conversation starts between the two men... Written by
Suppose another civil war broke out in France some day, well, Jean Becker might start it! Indeed because of him the country is now divided into two fratricidal sides: the spectators and the critics! As for the spectators, they flock to Jacques Becker's son's films and invariably love all he has done from "les Enfants du Marais" (1998). I personally -just like everybody else except the critics - have been amused and touched by the aforementioned movie as well as "Un crime au Paradis", "Effroyables Jardins" and his latest opus "Dialogue avec mon Jardinier". Simple but not simplistic, moving without being overly sentimental, humane but not populist, Jean Becker's last picture talks directly to the heart .On the other side you have the critics. This happy few are beside themselves with a man who dares show ordinary unaffected characters rather than Paris intellectuals between themselves, who tries to make our daily lives better rather than denigrate all the values not deemed valid by their highbrow circle. But let the civil war start: we spectators outnumber the critics by far. They are bound to be defeated!
As is always the case with Becker's recent movies, the story is very simple, not depending on plot twists or dramatic ups and downs to exist. However if you read the eponymous book (by Henri Cueco) which inspired the film, you will realize that the adaptation work (by talented Jean Cosmos) was no pleasure cruise. The title of Cueco's book ("Dialogue avec mon Jardinier") is telling in this respect: It has no storyline to speak of. It all amounts to a conversation between a Paris artist and his local gardener at the former's family house. Even more difficult, in the text, consisting mainly in the gardener's replies, there is no such thing as a real dialogue. You actually get to know the artist through the gardener's answers. How anti cinematographic! A carbon copy was impossible and Cosmos set about bringing on a few changes. Of course, he fleshed out the painter's character, modified a few facts (the artist is on the verge of divorce, he has a daughter about to marry, the circle of artists he used to mix with is described and satirize - hence the critics' reaction! - ; the gardener has become the artist's childhood friend, he does not a have a young daughter ) and created a subplot (concerning mostly the relationships between the artist, his separated wife and his young adult daughter). This way, although there is not much action other than an evolution in the characters' minds and feelings, "Dialogue avec mon Jardinier" functions as a true film, with a beginning, a middle and an end. But what is the most remarkable is that the dialogue of the book is transposed in full, with only a few minor additions or deletions. Such wonderful work allows Becker's last movie to attract the viewer while remaining faithful to the spirit of Cueco's original work: a sophisticated artist learns the basics of life while a John Doe is introduced to a world that totally escaped him before and enrich their minds mutually as a result.
The text is served by two outstanding actors, Daniel Auteuil (as subtle and humane as he can be) and Jean-Pierre Darroussin (absolutely amazing as the down-to-earth but not common gardener).
When you leave the theater you feel peaceful and happy despite the heart-breaking ending. It is the (French) critics' loss if they make all the efforts in the world to dislike such a beautiful film.
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