|Page 1 of 3:||  |
|Index||22 reviews in total|
Despite its very simple plot (the story of a son taking over the daily
round of his sick grocer father), 'Le fils de l'épicier' qualifies as
an enriching film experience.
Helmer Eric Guirado never relies on twist plots, car chases or visual effects and yet the viewer is captivated and leaves the theater fulfilled and happy. This is no small feat, so how does the co-writer/director Guirado accomplish this object? It's easy for me to analyze how he went about it (although I guess it must have been very difficult for him to make such a thin story interesting).
What actually makes this film particularly effective is its fine blend of documentary and fiction. A real ethnographer, the director captures real life to perfection. The grocer's son's customers are real people, what they say is what everyday fellows do in everyday life. Moreover most of the people playing villagers and customers are not professional actors but true people re-enacting what they do day after day. Simple, old chaps, rarely honored by the big screen. All rings true in 'Le Fils de l'Epicier' and this all the less surprising as Eric Guirado followed three different grocers in their daily rounds for months and months before filming. He DOES know his subject and you get an impression of truth throughout.
However, supposing 'Le fils de l'épicier' had been a hardcore documentary, it might not be as exciting as it is. For what little fiction is added to the documentary aspect lives up to it and finally makes the story and the characters catch on even better.
For instance Guirado examines with impressive relevance the tense relationships in the family. He also explores convincingly the serious theme of finding one's place in life and in society. Just like the customers mentioned before, the characters are true to life and Eric Guirado, never condemning any of his characters, tries to make us understand all of them, including the most unpleasant ones. A humanistic approach Jean Renoir would have approved of. Add to this a knack for comedy. Whenever it is possible Guirado eases the tension thanks to well-timed and staged funny sequences, like the painting of the van, the crazy appearances of Lucienne, etc.) There are good professional actors too ( handsome brooding Nicolas Cazalé; refreshingly unaffected Clotilde Hesme; Jeanne Goupil, Joel Seria's former sexy muse turned plump-fifty-year-old-mother-with-a-heart-of-gold ; always unsettling Daniel Duval as the unforgiving father).
To put it in a nutshell, in 'Le Fils de l'Epicier' the documentary side enhances the fiction and vice versa. Go and see it. You won't be disappointed.
Eric Guirado has made documentaries about the French countryside and
specifically traveling tradesmen in central and southern France.
Directly from that background comes this touching little fiction
feature about a family that has a grocery business with a van that
travels into the hills and provides daily necessities to aging country
people. One of the sons, Francois (Stephan Gillian Tillié of Just a
Question of Love) is a hairdresser in town. The other, Antoine (Nicolas
Cazalé of Le Clan), left home years ago to live in Paris, but he
returns to help out when his father (Daniel Duval) is downed by a heart
attack. He stays with his mom (Jeanne Goupil). And very importantly, he
brings with him a lively young woman, Claire (Clotilde Hesme, of
Regular Lovers). They aren't really involved, but he is bailing her
out. She is penniless, the refugee of an early failed marriage. He
borrows money from his mom to make this trip, bail Claire out of her
debts, and give her a peaceful place to finish her "bac" and apply to
college in Spain. His own life in Paris has never jelled. He can't seem
to hold a job for three months running.
Antoine pretends that he and Claire are married. And Francois, who lives elsewhere but comes by for meals, is pretending all is fine with his wife, who has left him some time ago. This isn't a family that communicates well, and Antoine left them because things weren't right; but neither was his own behavior as a youth--as we find out from Lucienne (Liliane Riviere), a feisty old lady on the van's grocery route who does not remember him with favor. Antoine also becomes more involved with Old Man Clement (Paul Clauchet), whose hen's eggs are practically all he has to offer any more. Guirado is remarkably skillful at making the constant trips in the grocery van different and reflective of changes in Antoine. Grounded in documentary technique, the film has a wealth of specific detail and never seems forced. And on top of that those in the main roles are actors with presence, anchored in center stage by the hunky, soulful Cazale and the vibrant, very French Clotilde Hesme. There is star quality here yet Cazalé, Tillié, and Duval, though you might not have known to pick them from a crowd, look very much like blood relations. That's good casting.
This is a very slight story, with some elements of too-sweet resolution, and it hardly seems likely to have much of a future as a US release. What makes it work are two things: the wealth of authentic country people who make up the secondary characters, the "customers" Antoine takes groceries to; and the fact that there are emotions here, that you care about Antoine and Francois and their dangling lives, the disgruntlement of their dad, Antoine's discovered affection for Claire, and his gradual acceptance, for the lack of anything better but because he has a basically good heart, of the idea that he might find a life in the rural world he fled from.
The Grocer's Son/Le fils de l'épicier is part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, February 29-March 9, 2008. No US distributor at that time. Later limited US theatrical release starting in June 2008.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Le Fils de l'épicier (The Grocer's Son) is one of the loveliest films
of the year. Written (with Florence Vignon) and directed by Eric
Guirado, this little taste of French life is as refreshing as the
fruits and vegetables on the traveling grocery van that is a focal
point of the story. Though at first glance it appears to be a simple
tale of a son begrudgingly taking over his invalid father's business,
Guirado has embroidered this story with so many warm details that the
film begs to be seen again and again to make sure nothing has been
Antoine Sforza (the gifted and handsome young actor Nicolas Cazalé) is a thirty something young waiter, unable to find satisfaction in his various jobs he opted for when he left his home ten years ago: his relationship with his father was strained and Antoine did not care to 'waste' his life in a village as an grocer (epicier). He has a 'girlfriend' Claire (Clotilde Hesme) who is trying to save money to go to Spain to study, and when his father (Daniel Duval) is hospitalized with a heart attack, he begrudgingly agrees to return home - with the proviso that his mother lend him money that he in turn gives to Claire so that she can complete her dream of studying in Spain. Antoine's brother François (Stéphan Guérin-Tillié) owns a beauty salon and, despite the family's concept that he is the stable one, has troubles of his own. Antoine's mother (Jeanne Goupil) is desperate for help: she has managed to run the little store in the village, but a major source of income has come from the van the father drives through the countryside, selling groceries to the old folks. Antoine is encouraged by Claire to take over the van and even helps Antoine paint the van with rainbow colors to become the 'Epicier Volante'. In time Antoine's brusque and distant personality is affected by the warmly humorous and significantly needy yet friendly old folks. He makes friends and extends himself as never before.
Claire wins her audition for Spain, the father is released form the hospital, François' life falls apart, and Antoine feels he must pay back his mother and move on. But the bonds between the changed Antoine and his family as well as his deep attachments to the old folks convince him to alter his plan for his life.
Many of the 'old folks' are cast from villagers who Guirado met while scouting for his film and these 'actors', together with some very fine character actors such as Liliane Rovère, give the film a feeling of authenticity. The scenery is gorgeous, the music is apropos, and the performances by the lead members of the cast are superb. This is a film to treasure - repeatedly. Highest Recommendation. Grady Harp
Even from his earliest days, Antoine Sfouza has made it the goal of his
life not to have anything to do with the family business. That's why,
in his late teens, he left the town where he was born and raised and
headed off to the big city in search of fame, fortune and a better life
for himself. The problem is that now, at the ripe old age of thirty,
Antoine finds himself an embittered ne'er-do-well loser, waiting tables
in a sidewalk cafe and living in a dreary one-room flat in Paris, all
but estranged from the family that raised him. But after his father is
hospitalized with a heart attack, Antoine reluctantly returns to help
his mother and brother run the grocery store, which, as a part of its
service, operates a van that travels around the local countryside,
selling goods in towns and villages too remote to have a fully stocked
grocery store of their own. It becomes Antoine's job to drive and man
the van, even though his gloomy demeanor and prickly personality don't
make him exactly a prime candidate for such an assignment.
Eric Guirado's "The Grocer's Son" might just as easily have been titled "The Grocer's Prodigal Son," since the movie is a fairly transparent update of that well-known story from the Bible. Yet, lucky for us, the screenplay by Guirado and Florence Vignon fleshes out the allegory with fully realized characters and the kind of family dynamics that can only be hinted at in a brief parable. In a carefully understated performance, Nicolas Cazale plays the brooding, almost completely unsmiling Antoine, who eventually comes to learn that a life spent cut off from the people around him is no life at all. The charming Clotilde Hesme co-stars as the free-spirited and independent 26-year-old college student who rooms and boards with the family and who becomes a major catalyst for change in the young man's life.
This is a movie that sneaks up on you slowly and wins you over by degrees - until, in the last half hour or so, it becomes a lyrical, really quite beautiful tale of redemption and compassion, of accepting responsibility and finding one's place in the world. Add to the mix an array of sweet and winning performances by a tremendously gifted cast, a lilting musical score by Christophe Boutin (played mainly on guitar), and generous helpings of lovely French scenery rolling on by, and you have a truly touching and memorable film that will lift your spirits and, for a brief moment at least, make everything seem right with the world.
Talk about your dysfunctional families! The grocer's family gets the
five-star award. Antoine is the subject of the film. He left home as a
youth and has been pretty much disowned by his father who wanted him to
stay in their small village and help him run his grocery. Antoine has
not fared well as an adult. He has no work ethic whatsoever and bounces
about from one dead end job to the next.
It appears his only accomplishment as an adult is to have made a very good friend of a young woman named Claire. She entered a bad marriage early in life, got divorced, and is now working to be accepted to an academy in Spain. Now she has a work ethic as she labors all day and studies late into the night in her quest for higher education.
The father is hospitalized, and Antoine begrudgingly visits after an estrangement of almost ten years. Antoine's brother, François is there and appears to have the same animosity for his brother as expressed by the father. François owns a hair salon and appears to be the picture of the successful family man.
Antoine wants nothing to do with his family, but his mother begs him to come and run the family business while his father is ill. Antoine strikes a bargain with his mother that includes the opportunity for Claire to quit her job and allow her to devote full time to her studies, so she and Antoine move in above the store with his mother. The first surprise that comes to his mother is that Antoine and Claire do not share a room and that their relationship is platonic. Antoine's mother views this as an interesting insight into her son who, apparently, has always been incredibly self-centered.
While the mother tends the store, it is Antoine's job to drive a large van equipped as a mini store to the neighboring villages. Most of the customers are elderly and have had long standing arrangements with the father as to payment, etc. Antoine proceeds to alienate just about everyone on the route with his rudeness and unwillingness to comply with the customs established by his father. Claire saves the day when she starts traveling the route with Antoine as she is friendly and compassionate. He learns from Claire and soon becomes more flexible and affable.
Events occur, precipitated by Antoine's selfishness, that cause Claire to return to the city, and Antoine is left there with his mother to carry on as agreed. When Antoine's father returns from the hospital, he is still not able to go back to work. Once the father arrives, we get more insight as to why Antoine is so damaged.
This film has superior acting, interesting characters, and beautiful scenery, but it often comes off as somewhat disjointed. I'm not sure if this is due to a weakness in script or editing, but there are, at times, actions that take place that make little sense considering the storyline. None-the-less, it is a good story with charming, insightful characters that creates a positive viewing experience.
I have just been to see this film at the Glasgow Film Theatre. I had been unaware of the director's reputation as a documentary maker and I have to agree with all the earlier commentators' opinions on the filmmaker's superb feel for scenery. One could almost sense the warmth and the scents of Provence. The actors, both principal and co-opted paysannes (French country people), were natural in their roles: I have overheard the same banter between customers and stall-holders in markets throughout rural France. This film is a treat to watch and I have no hesitation in awarding it "dix points"! My only minor reservation concerns the English sub-titles: some of the wonderful French dialogue looked as if it had been translated by an adolescent. All the same, a great film.
The Grocier's Son (or,'Le Fils De L'epicier')is a wonder. It's a small budgeted film that at first resembles a documentary film about a young man who returns to the village he grew up in to work his parents small grocery van,with a friend in tow. A closer look finds that it only looks that way. This loving peon to small town provincial life in the French countryside is a joy to look at. The characters are not always the nicest of folk (at least at first),but their spell works it's way into you after a while (give it time). The film is cast with (mostly) non professionals who actually live in the area. At times, I was reminded of films such as 'Local Hero',where the protagonist arrives at the destination a rather dour,grumpy sort, but is won over by the charm of the locals by film's end. I admired the films do it yourself (or D.I.Y.)look (a lot of the camera work is hand held). The use of music is minimal,relying on the natural sounds of the French countryside to weave it's magic spell on the characters in the story (not to mention the audience). Seek this one out.
A very nice film I think you'd like.... fine acting, terrific musical
score, richly nuanced character interactions. The theme of personal
growth and relationship redemption is strong and compelling. That said,
this same theme both resonates with and is diluted by being juxtaposed
as parallel to the urban vs bucolic dichotomy. This is unfortunate only
to the extent that it is an incidental distraction to the character
dynamics, and misleading as an undercurrent suggesting some inherently
beneficent quality to rural areas resistant to modernity.
The photography in itself is rather good but somehow I left feeling they could have done more with the panoramic vistas sensed in the background as well as to contrast the city vs country ambiance; somewhat better cinematography might have elevated this movie from really good to excellent. For me the film lacked perhaps the exuberance of a fine Amarone but 'tasted like a really good Cab'..
One for your list of films to see..
Le fils de l'épicier/The Grocer's Son (Eric Guirado, 2007) traverses
well-worn ground in an appealing way. Nicolas Cazalé is agreeably gruff
as the titular character, the Prodigal Son returning to the family he
left behind (You Can Count on Me, In My Father's Den), whose pastoral
existence is in stark contrast with the hubbub of the metropolis (I
Know Where I'm Going!, Local Hero, Doc Hollywood).
Arriving with his almost-girlfriend, he takes on his ailing dad's rounds, finding both solace and frustration in the work. It's a bit erratic, with a couple of stretches that just consist of Cazale handing out food and an ending that's slightly rushed, but there are enough offbeat laughs and telling episodes to make it worthwhile. It's also a bit darker than you might expect, or at least more fraught.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Those who seek to compare and contrast, trace lineage etc will cite as distinguished forbears of The Grocer's Son such titles as Une Hirodelle a fait le printemps, Le Grand chemin etc on the grounds that all three titles feature an urban protagonist either choosing or being obliged to move to a rural setting. Writer-director Eric Guirado throws us a curve inasmuch as HIS protagonist Antoine (Nicilas Cazale) had it up to here with Rural some ten years before the story starts and lit out for Paris where he has been drifting from dead-end job to dead-end job although Antoine would probably argue 'okay, I'm getting nowhere but I'm doing it in Paris, man'. Things change when his autocratic father, Daniel Duval, suffers a heart attack and Antoine very reluctantly agrees to return home and help his mother run the family grocery business, specifically by driving the mobile grocery van to the outlying hamlets that rely on it. His intitial contempt for the customers gradually turns to respect, admiration, affection and yes, even love, end of story. It is, of course, so much more than that and Guirado brings his documentary experience to bear and draws his cast from professional actors - none more distinguished than Paul Crauchet - and ordinary people thus creating a seamless blend of docu-drama replete with sub-plots like the brother who conceals from his family the fact that his wife has left him for some time and is now pregnant by another man, and the love interest, Clotilde Hesme, the divorcée of whom Antoine is enamoured. Purists may argue that Guirado tends to 'sell' the virtues of rural living and ignore the harsher realities explored so brilliantly in the recent documentary La Vie Moderne, and they would be correct so far as it goes but this remains a wonderfully lyrical film that should not be missed.
|Page 1 of 3:||  |
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Official site|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|