Three men, three women, opposites, possibilities, and tastes. Castella owns a industrial steel barrel plant in Rouen; Bruno is his flute-playing driver, Franck is his temporary bodyguard while he negotiates a contract with Iranians, his wife Angélique does frou-frou interior decorating and loves her dog. The conventional Castella hires a forty-year-old actress, Clara, to tutor him in English, and he finds her and her Bohemian lifestyle fascinating. Is this love? What would she say if he declared himself? Through Bruno, Franck meets Manie, a barmaid who deals hash. They begin an affair. Are they in love? They joke about marriage. As the women hold back, the men must make decisions.Written by
Piano Concerto, No. 21, K. 467
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as W.A. Mozart)
Boosey and Hawkes Music
Cavendish Music Co Ltd
A Division of Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd.
By kind permission of Zomba Production Music See more »
Placid humour, with hints of classic farce.
This is a character film, a portrait etched in dialogue between the self-written lead and the wandering sympathies of simple, well-executed cinematography. Echoes of Bacri's erstwhile partner-in-crime, Resnais, abound in image and in the weight of unspoken actions. These glances and comedic zooms denoue with the sharpness of Tati, without clouding the gravity of the story.
And it is a meticulously woven story they Jaoui gives us, at a pace that might leave an impatient viewer distracted. Tracking Bacri, smooth pans move ethereally through Petit-Bourgeois sets, ever pressing the banality of her subject. The middle-aged businessman in mid-life crisis is a bittersweet choice for comedy: bitter in its reality and sweet in the familiarity, he is tantamount to a French David Brent. Castella is a character whose weakness is sympathetic to the point of embarrassment.
By contrast, the hand-held and quick cutting that accompanies the theatre troupe and artists expresses the impatience we see in their speech, the bitter jealousy of the unsuccessful and arrogant intellectual. An attack on 'her own people', Jaoui here takes a dig at many of her peers in favour of the senior man, giving Devaux hints of the autobiographical that echo down to Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino.
A soundtrack bridging centuries evokes the knowledge of the older man on screen as well as of the auditorium. Kathleen Ferrier's warble punctuates moments of silence as we observe Castella's nonplussed expression, while Metheny and Murray smash and spark away in background to the Bohemians. These interludes mark sea changes in viewer sympathy, serving to give some degree of cultural empathy to the characters.
Above all, though, the music and rhythm of cinematography, script and music span great clashes in taste. A mesh of contempt and desire that result in a rounded and masterful work, with appeal for all but with affection for those with grey streaks in their hair.
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