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Joseph and Olga Stegudith, who are elderly Parisians of Viennese Jewish extraction, come to luxurious Evian with Olga's brother Michel Mazelsky to hear their son, virtuoso cellist Jascha, perform. Jascha is lovesick over violinist Anna Ghirardi, with whom he had a brief affair a year ago, although she's happily married to naturalist Primo.Written by
For the most part, one of the wonderful things about films is the ability to climb into other peoples' heads and lives and learn something about a milieu one knows nothing about. From All About Eve to The Decline of the American Empire to the Trois Couleurs trilogy, one of film's great pleasures is the revelation of ideas and the portrayal of people trying (and often failing) to communicate.
I had high hopes for Le pique-nique de Lulu Kreutz following in the footsteps of the aforementioned films, based my regard the talents of the screenwriter and playwright, Yasmina Reza, whose play Art was so masterful. The cast, which includes Philippe Noiret (Il postino), Stéphane Audran (Babette's Feast, Les Biches) and Carole Bouquet (That Obscure Object of Desire, For Your Eyes Only and a multitude of Chanel commercials), also suggested that this would be a pleasant distraction for a rainy afternoon.
The film is the kind of talkfest for which French films are renown. There are some sparkling lines here and there and some trenchant observations about the upper-middle class in France. On balance, however, there is little to celebrate in the attitudes and behaviour of the characters. The lead actor, Niels Arestrup (Meeting Venus) as concert musician, becomes more annoying with every frame of film and it is hard to see what would have drawn Carole Bouquet's character to him in the first place. Bouquet's character is not much more sympathetic or interesting: a woman torn between her stable, loving, but somewhat dull husband and a strutting egocentric manchild lover. Ultimately, the whole thing adds up to nearly two hours which this viewer will never recover.
On the plus side, Stéphane Audran is never less than interesting to watch as a performer and Philippe Noiret does display some warmth and compassion in watching the endless sturm and drang of the younger cast members. And of course, the setting (Evian-les-Bains) is stunning.
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