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Jean, his loving wife and son live a simple, happy life. At his son's homeroom teacher Madamoiselle Chambon's request, he volunteers as substitute teacher and starts to fall for her ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Jean-Marc Thibault ...
Le père de Jean
Arthur Le Houérou ...
Jérémy
Bruno Lochet ...
Collègue de Jean 1
Abdellah Moundy ...
Collègue de Jean 2 (as Abdallah Moundy)
Michelle Goddet ...
La directrice de l'école
Anne Houdy ...
La commerciale des pompes funèbres
Geneviève Mnich ...
La mère de Véronique (voice)
Florence Hautier ...
Soeur de Jean 1
Jocelyne Monier ...
Soeur de Jean 2
Jean-François Malet ...
Le beau-frère
Maxence Lavergne ...
Elève classe de Jérémy
Philomène Pagnier ...
Elève classe de Jérémy
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Storyline

Jean, his loving wife and son live a simple, happy life. At his son's homeroom teacher Madamoiselle Chambon's request, he volunteers as substitute teacher and starts to fall for her delicate and elegant charm. His ordinary life between family and work starts to falter. Written by Pusan International Film Festival

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

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Details

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Release Date:

28 May 2010 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Despoinis Chambon  »

Box Office

Budget:

€3,900,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$26,337 (USA) (4 June 2010)

Gross:

$530,369 (USA) (24 December 2010)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Soundtracks

Quel joli temps (septembre)
Lyrics by Sophie Makhno (as Françoise Lo)
Music by Barbara
Performed by Barbara
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User Reviews

 
A sweet sadness
18 February 2010 | by (Berkeley, California) – See all my reviews

In Stéphane Brizé's restrained fourth film (which he's adapted from a 1996 Éric Holder novel) a tight-lipped mason named Jean (Vincent Lindon) in an unnamed provincial French town meets his little boy's schoolteacher, the Mademoiselle of the title (Sandrine Kiberlain) and his world subtly changes. He loves his wife Anne-Marie (Aure Atika), who works in a print shop, and little Jérémy (Arthur Le Houerou), but Mademoiselle (her name is Véronique, but Jean never gets beyond the formal "vous" with her) has a refinement, a delicacy. And she plays the violin -- classical music that Jean seems unfamiliar with but delighted by.

At first Mademoiselle asks Jean at the last minute to fill in and speak to her class (and his son's) about his work, an experience that also gives him great pleasure. Perhaps he enjoys indirectly telling this refined maiden lady who attracts him about his basic, satisfying work, building houses that are always different and will last, as one child asks, "for your whole life." Then when she asks help with a broken window at her flat, he takes a look and then insists on being the one to replace it. Then comes the music. He insists that she play; photos and the violin tell him of her former profession.

This film has only a hint of sex, and no raw physicality, but it works with the body, with silence, and with gesture. Throughout it shows Lindon acting the part by doing hard construction work on screen, breaking up paving with a pneumatic drill, mounting the window, laying bricks of a wall, and so on. He even walks like a skilled laborer. Anne-Marie is always ironing, cooking, shopping, making lists. Mademoiselle Chambon reads, rests, places her hand delicately on her neck. Jean tenderly washes the feet of his old father (charming veteran Jean-Marc Thibault).

Finally the teacher plays a recording of chamber music at her place for Jean and as they sit together listening they slowly hold hands, embrace, and cling together as if at home, but afraid to go further. This carefully paced sequence is one of the film's most effective. However many "make-out" scenes you may have seen, this one still feels fresh. Lindon is like a fine mason in his acting, slowly, patiently laying the bricks of gesture. A silence and a pause can speak volumes.

Both Véronique and Jean fight their attraction. And can it go anywhere? But it keeps growing, despite gestures in the opposite direction. Jean tells Mademoiselle that her CD's interest him even though he hasn't listened to them yet. She usually changes schools every year, but tells him, in a key scene, that she's been asked to fill in for someone and stay on. But instead of expressing enthusiasm, Jean blurts out that his wife is pregnant.

This is one anchor to the family: one child, and another coming. Another is Jean's father. Jean and Anne-Marie are planning a big birthday party for the old man at their house with family members coming from all over. Family matters. But Jean shows how far his feelings have gone in another direction -- even though we've seen only those restrained moments -- when he invites Mademoiselle Chambon to come and play the violin for his father. It's not certain that his wife has suspected anything, but she has noticed that Jean seems bored, indifferent, irritable. And she might suspect why now.

What follows is surprising -- agonizingly suspenseful -- and quite familiar. We've seen this kind of story before. We've seen these characters before. But we've rarely seen more delicacy than Bizé brings to his treatment of the story, which is haunting in a classic way without feeling in any way retro -- though perhaps the provincial setting was chosen to avoid that, to have events unfold in a place that's less aggressively modern and hip than Paris.

Lindon and Kiberlain are husband and wife, though now estranged, which may help explain the magnetic energy in their scenes together. There are plenty of lines here, but there's a distrust of language, together with a touching desire to use it properly. "I'd like to hear more tunes," Jean tells Véronique. "Is that right, to say 'tunes'?." At the outset, Jérémy poses a homework problem to his parents to find the "direct object" in a sentence and they haven't a clue, but patiently figure out what this means. Bizé is great with the children. Arthur Le Houerou as the son is unfailingly alive and natural; and his classmates are spontaneous and charming (though primed, as classes are) when they excitedly ask Jean about his work.

If there is a weakness to the film it's the danger that the differences of class and culture are pelled out a little too clearly. Lindon is a magnificent actor, but as a man with many illustrious relatives and one-time suitor of Princess Caroline of Monaco he is not exactly drawing on personal experience in playing a mason whose father was also a mason. Nonetheless he is for the most part utterly convincing. It's the film itself that plays on broad differences that a screenplay of 90 minutes duration cannot quite adequately delineate. Lindon has a harried, careworn, but solid quality that fits a working man in need of reawakening. Kiberlain seems held inward, decent but tragically needy. You wouldn't know that she's been around the block with the actual Lindon and had a child by him; she could be this uptight maiden lady on the brink of lifelong spinsterhood. There's a sadness about her, a sweet sadness.

Opened in mid-October 2009 in Paris, this film is part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center for 2010. What a contrast with the mad body-presses and adulterous whirlwind of another film in the series, Cédric Kahn's Regret. When it comes to the varieties of love, the French have the bases covered.


43 of 51 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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