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One of the greatest performance of French actor Gerard Depardieu lately. After the more somber and underground art film Mammuth, were you recognize somewhat the frees spirited Depardieu of the cult movie "Les Valseuses" (1974), here comes an unexpected tender and touching story of an adult that can barely read and an elderly lady from a retirement home. A love story begins, her love of words and books drives his desire to finally learn to "travel with words" and their love for each other blossoms. The director is know for his love of the human kind, undeserved as it may be, he glorifies the good one can do to another human being. It is a refreshing film, not a dark satire of society, but a joyful, hopeful, moving story with a true happy end. Don't miss it !
This is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. The story of a middle-aged man
who can barely read, and doesn't enjoy it, and as a result has only odd
jobs that pay little. He lives in an old trailer home in his mother's
back yard, because that is all he can afford.
Then one day he meets a frail, elderly woman, who charms him by her very differences: she is a retired scientist, a highly educated and cultured woman, who has a passion for literature, which she loves to read out loud. He allows her to read to him, and becomes hooked by some great literature. It opens whole new worlds to him, and changes his life for the better. It also gives him the desire to really know how to read, and he sets about learning to do so, despite all the shame that involves for an adult man.
I liked this movie so much that I read the book on which it was based afterward. The novel, with the same title, is if anything even better than the movie. The end of the movie seems a little rushed, whereas the end of the book makes complete sense and is, I found, more satisfying.
Still, this is one very fine movie, with two great performances, by Depardieu and Gaby Casadeseus. It makes you feel good, without the mush that typifies what in the U.S. are called "feel good" movies. It would be interesting to see a good American director adapt it for American audiences.
A man (not so young) and a woman (very old) on a bench (the standard
model), a few pigeons and few books, such are the basic ingredients of
"La Tête en Friche". Not much in terms of dramatic backbone, but more
than it takes for Jean Becker to make one of these heart-warming movies
of which he has had the secret since "Les enfants du marais" (1995).
Little-known novelist Marie-Sabine Roger has provided the director, well assisted by the veteran scriptwriter Jean-Loup Dabadie, with typical Jean Becker material : the place of the action set somewhere in the French provinces (in this case, a village in the South-West of France), ordinary people as heroes (in "La tête en friche", a local Forrest Gump-like jack of all trades, a delicious 94-year-old lady who lives in an old people's home and a bunch colorful village people) as well as a lot of heart.
It is hard indeed to remain insensitive to the two leading characters, to the birth and development of a deep friendship between them, all the more as they are embodied to perfection by two wonderful actors, bulky Gérard Depardieu (a John Blunt who, against all odds, discovers the virtues of reading) and frail Gisèle Casadesus (as his unexpected Pygmalion). The two performers form an odd but touching couple that very few audience members can resist.
Funny and touching, light but not superficial, "La tête en friche" affords the luxury of examining, without depressing the viewer, such serious subjects as illiteracy, the status of the elderly in our society, the nearness of death, the aftermath of a difficult childhood...
The only thing that could be blamed on the authors is their giving Germain (Depardieu) a young mate. It is not Sophie Guillemin's fault at all : she is marvelous in the role. Fresh, natural, even solar. She is perfect but... twice as young as her partner. Not very believable, I am afraid.
But this is only a minor shortcoming. As a whole, "La Tête en friche" is an intelligent, sensitive and enjoyable film. One more achievement for Jean Becker.
I thought that Becker's "Dialogue avec mon jardinier" was an excellent
film; but watching "La tête en friche", I think this is his master
Depardieu is "the" actor in the current French movie scene and I can't imagine anyone other in the role of Germain Chazes. But the film lives by the art of both protagonists: Gisèle Casadesus and Gérard Depardieu. It is hard to imagine a greater contrast than the well educated lady on the one hand and the proletarian worker who had the worst start in life one can imagine, on the other hand.
It is a very old subject which was already treated in 1668 by the novel of Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen "Simplicius Simplicissimus" where a very simple person, a shepherd, by education and learning makes career as an army officer. Nothing other is demonstrated in this movie: A simple boy (shown in the flash backs) who never had a chance to become an educated person, gets the chance to learn due to the caring of an old lady and becomes all of a sudden a different person.
He notices the the problems of his surrounding and even understands his mother in the end - who always treated him mean during her lifetime.
This is a very moving film which gives hope that people and persons can be changed in their behavior by much love and understanding of their surroundings.
An excellent performance of Gisèle Casadesus (at the age of 96 years!) and Gérard Depardieu.
I voted 10 of 10 points.
Jean Becker would never be able to make a living as a filmmaker in
America. This should not be taken as a critique of him as a filmmaker,
rather as a critique of America. This thought came into my mind as I
sat virtually alone (with 2 others) in a 200 seat theatre, located in a
booming city of over a million, on a Sunday evening, during the first
week's release of his latest film MY AFTERNOONS WITH MARGUERITTE. How
sad it is to see such a film virtually unnoticed here in the states. Oh
The film tells the story of Germain, played very subtly by Depardieu, who is a gentle giant, a bit slow, but lovable. He lives with an abusive mother, makes a living doing odd jobs around town, spends his free time gardening and drinking with his friends, has a girlfriend whom he adores, and is very much content with his life. One day he meets Margueritte, a woman of 95, sitting alone in the park, reading and feeding the pigeons. A friendship blossoms. They have conversations, exchanging their views on life, she reads to him and even persuades him to pick up a book himself.
Marguerite is content with life, although lonely. She lives at a home for the aged, paid for by a distant relative. Germain gives her a companion, someone to share with the ups and downs of everyday life. She has seen and done much and now is ready to live out the rest of her days quietly. The ending of the film is quite wonderful and I will not spoil it for the reader. Like the ending of Becker's last widely released film CONVERSATIONS WITH MY GARDNER, it may appear to be overly sentimental. It shouldn't. It would be wonderful if more movies ended in such an upbeat way, celebrating life and the joys that simple human kindness can create.
As I try to go back over the film's many details, I find in it so much beauty and wisdom, the kind that is so much needed, but missing from modern life...
Greetings again from the darkness. It's nice to see a sweet, lovely
little movie get made and distributed. The only characters are people
we immediately recognize and feel like we know ... or wish we did.
Based on a novel by Marie-Sabine Roger, it's directed by Jean Becker
who clearly loves the characters, dialogue and message.
Gerard Depardieu stars as Germain, a giant hulking mass of man who is both likable and a bit of a target for barbs by his buddies at the café where they all hang out. Germain is the kind of guy who tends a garden of home grown veggies, and finishes his handyman work when the job is done ... even if it means he gets cheated out of a few dollars.
One day Germain meets Margueritte. Seems they both like to feed the pigeons from the same park bench. The two of them fall in love. OK, it's not quite that simple. Margueritte (Gisele Casadesus) is 95 years old and lives at a retirement center nearby. Her world consists mostly of reading books and counting pigeons. That is, until she meets Germain. Her wise, but failing eyes, recognize a wounded man. A man with a giant and kind heart. And mostly a man who is a wonderful listener. See, Margueritte READS aloud to Germain, who was mistreated as a child by his mother and teacher, and never developed any self-esteem or refined social skills. Margueritte helps him overcome through the words she reads ... and the stories he visualizes.
This simple story shows what an impact we can have on others by listening, or through a simple act of kindness. Margueritte's efforts open up the world for Germain, while his willingness to listen and care give her hope for another day. There are side stories involving Germain's mother (Claire Maurier), whom he still cares for, Germain's younger girlfriend Annette (Sophie Guillemin), and the circle of friends at the café/pub. These are all French people and full of life and emotion and judgment and caring.
Despite the shaky ending, this movie made me smile and had me hoping to spend an afternoon on the park bench with Margueritte and Germain ... reading The Plague by Albert Camus. Now that's a movie first!
This is a wonderful movie. I went with my husband. We didn't expect anything. On the way to the movies we joked who will be the first to fall asleep. The movie is very relaxing, with nice jokes here and there. After a busy day, it's a perfect treat for stressed people. I studied French years ago and of course don't remember much. The actors spoke rather slowly, so I could easily follow the lines with my lousy French. And it's France, with wine and tomatoes. People socialize in a small local pub. So, you feel as if you were a part of their community. Even though the movie is relaxing, the scenes move forward all the time. It's very entertaining in a quiet fashion. So, enjoy!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jean Becker is unquestionably a poet of rural France as time after time, film after film, he celebrates the hinterland in much the same way as Marcel Pagnol used to do. Above all - again like Pagnol - his characters have warmth, charm, heart - and those are only the heavies. This time around he has cast Gerard Depardiu as an illeterate oak though lovable with it. Although he has his share of friends in the rural community he is often the butt of their jokes but given the gorgeous much younger girlfriend he has acquired the laugh is surely on them. One day sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons he stumbles on a charming elderly lady whose idea of light reading is Camus' The Plague. They strike up a friendship and are soon meeting daily and Depardieu is absorbing culture by osmosis. That's pretty much it but it is done superbly not least by Giselle Casadesus, who really was born in 1914 or three years before Danielle Darrieux who is also still working. British reviewers seem to think Casadesus is a newcomer yet she has been working for years not least in Becker's Les Enfants du Marais and Valerie Lemercier's Palais Royal. This is a wonderful film that I can't recommend highly enough.
A film like Jean Becker's My Afternoons with Margueritte spoils me with
a lyricism found not just in a small French provincial town filled with
eccentric, lovable characters but also in sentiment propelled by
exquisite words found in Camus and Romain Gary. And an odd couple who
find love that is sometimes not named.
In perhaps a nod to Harold and Maude, Germain (Gerard Depardieu), a 50 year old non reader, meets in the park with 90 year old Margueritte (Gisele Casadesus), who initially reads to him from Camus' The Plague. As she awakens his interest in reading, his life changes, not the least of which is finding a loving mother figure for the abusive real one. Or maybe discovering Leonard Cohen's Suzanne.
So much more is layered in this romantic story: a Cheers-like café where love and disrespect, the two poles of sentiment in the film, play out in a way that exalts the affection even in the hardest of relationships; a traditional love affair for Germain with the younger Francine (Maurane) that may turn around the story's primary January-May motif but parallels it in the deeply loving relationship that seeks to perpetuate itself.
So much of My Afternoons is about renewal and rebirth, and so little is about death that the formula for too old to be young no longer applies. Nor does my expectation to be grossed out by Depardieu's enormous girth, a sad counterpoint to his dashing younger days. But wait, his weight is perfect for the role, his lines read with such understated beauty as to shout, "Where have you been, Gerard?" The bear-like man revealing a daisy-like affect is poetically perfect for the story.
If you expect the film to follow a formula, you will be correct, except maybe for the ending which confirms the motif of unnamed love conquering all. Actually, the film makes you cry for more of the odd-couple romantic formula.
As for the transforming power of books, Abe Lincoln had a witty take on the subject: "The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read." Change that to "woman" and you have My Afternoons with Margueritte.
Germain (Gerard Depardieu) is not illiterate. He knows how to read and
write, but he really prefers not to. For one, he is not very good at
reading, he goes slowly and he uses his finger to follow the lines
across the page. However, his comprehension is pretty good, especially
when someone reads aloud to him. He imagines the scene in his mind and
if the reader is describing rats in the street he can see those rats
squirming around in enough detail that it makes him uncomfortable. Not
being a big fan of reading and not being known as any sort of
intellectual at his local bar is just fine by Germain. He is a town
handyman, a very capable gardener, appreciates his girlfriend, and is
not depressed about his station in life.
His station isn't very high either. He lives in a trailer behind his mother's house and makes ends meet by being good with his hands, be it woodworking or gardening. One advantage to not having a steady 9-5 job is lunch in the park. Germain enjoys making a sandwich and leisurely eating it on his favorite park bench where he can monitor the pigeons. He goes there enough to know that in fact there are 19 usual pigeons hanging around and he even has names for all of them. It is here in the park where he meets 95 year old Margueritte (Gisele Casadesus). The park gives her a chance to escape the old folks home for a bit and read out in the sunlight.
Margueritte and Germain strike up a pleasant friendship where she reads aloud and he appreciates the stories. This is the first time in his life someone has ever taken the time to talk with him one on one about stories, how they make you feel, and what the author may have been thinking about. Germain has bad memories from his childhood, both from an unfriendly school and an uninterested mother. Margueritte sees through his thick exterior and recognizes a kind of kindred spirit, one who really appreciates a good story and crisp sentences. In another life and with decent surroundings, Margueritte surmises Germain could have been an author himself.
All of these new ideas, books, and learning makes his life a bit more uncomfortable. His friends at the bar notice his vocabulary is raising a notch or two and his girlfriend Annette (Sophie Guillemin) is starting to wonder where all of this self improvement is coming from. Give My Afternoons with Margueritte a strong point in the good script column that is sidesteps what could have been a misunderstanding with a real scene of openness, frustration, and acceptance.
Gerard Depardieu gives a very strong performance here as a guy everyone likes, except his mother, and who enjoys his life in his small town. This comes off a very good performance he had last year with Inspector Bellamy. Gisele Casadesus has shown up three times in the movies in the past few months. She has bit parts in Sarah's Key and The Hedgehog and for a lady of such an advanced age, she really has a grasp on Margueritte and how she would feel towards a man approaching middle age whose earlier experiences stunted what could have been a wonderful relationship between him and the world of books. She may be the only 95 year old in France capable of still turning out a good performance which is why she is getting every single role in France which calls for one.
My Afternoons with Margueritte is a very pleasant way to spend your own afternoon. Watching Germain and Margueritte plod through a Camus novel is refreshing and it is truly enjoyable to sit back and watch a script unfold which chooses to step away from cliché and focus on character and style.
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