The comfortable daily routines of aging Parisian actor Gilbert Valence, 76, are suddenly shaken when he learns that his wife, daughter, and son-in-law have been killed in a car crash. Having to take care of his now-orphaned grandson, he struggles to go on with his lifelong acting career like he's used to. But the roles he is offered -- a flashy TV show and a hectic last-minute replacement in an English-language film of Joyce's Ulysses -- finally convince him that it's time to retire.Written by
Anyone who thinks this movie is boring is a horse's ass who should stick to car chase movies. This is a brilliant, moving, and subtle film that is all the more poignant because, it's director being a nonagenarian, it could well be his swan song, and that of its 76 year old principal as well. De Oliveira, like his lead character, will not compromise his principles by dumbing down his material. Much of the film is silent, i.e., with no dialogue precisely because it is a film, a visual medium, not a play. The done is set by De Oliveira's daring opening, which consists of its actor-character enacting the finale of an Ionesco play, which goes on for over 15 minutes. A daring move that pays off because, perhaps predictably, what happens in the play is a predictor of what is to come. The film is not unlike King Lear, in that it stresses the sadness of seeing one who once had greatness, and who still has flashes of it, in decline and perhaps at the end of his powers. It is a sublime meditation on the inevitability of death and the foolishness of fighting it. A minor masterpiece.
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