- 1h 34min
Traveling from France to Tangiers, a man looks to reunite with his former love, though their romance ended some 30 years earlier.Traveling from France to Tangiers, a man looks to reunite with his former love, though their romance ended some 30 years earlier.Traveling from France to Tangiers, a man looks to reunite with his former love, though their romance ended some 30 years earlier.
Into all this he brings Depardieu and Deneuve, well into late middle age and pointedly showing it. The actress the French press still ritually calls the Most Beautiful Woman In The World allows herself to be shot dowdy and wrinkled, and Depardieu is a pathetic, clutsy, mastodontic wreck of a project engineer who's supposed to build things but who pulls them down around himself instead. Viewers who come to this film hoping for a glamorous "Last Metro" sequel will (deservedly) be sorely disappointed, but it is in the interaction of these two as truthfully aging (but only partly matured and not necessarily wiser) human beings that much of the real magic of the film lies. The sequence of their first encounter is transcendental cinema: Téchiné paces, lights and,above all, frames it with as much mastery as you will see in any non-Asian film this year, and the actors pour their lifetimes of experience into making it a moment of stunning, deeply affecting comic understatement. With such consummate virtuosos in front of and behind the camera, all you can do is purr.
Balzac here meets the Thousand and One Nights, with sudden clashes of culture and of personality, and with acute, squirm-inducingly true mixes of love and its opposite between friends, lovers, spouses and (in bravura double casting of Lubna Azabal) twins, all real and raw, all in quicksilver sequences with minimum exposition or narrative explication. The film looks as if it may have been done on a very tight schedule: some of sequences show signs of over-hasty rehearsal, of cameras rolling before actors have gelled and mastered their scene.
But Téchiné is nonetheless a master who makes so many films that he is taken for granted and mistaken for a reliable journeyman. He probably longs for a breakthrough hit and may have been hoping for this finally to be the one. It won't be: the French press comment has ranged from very enthusiastic to tepid to dismissive, and, as is so often the case, he is up against newer and glitzier directors with films being released at roughly the same time. (In 1991, for example, it had been Olivier Assayas's "Paris s'éveille", portentous and affected, that had eclipsed Téchiné's searing but, as usual, flawed "J'embrasse pas"; this year, it is Arnaud Desplechin's "Rois et reine", also featuring Deneuve, that will doubtless outglitz "Les temps qui changent", without bettering it.) But in Paris, chic will always win over substance, and Téchiné will never be chic. This doubtless goes a long way to explaining why so many actors of the first rank (Deneuve long a synonym for chic among them) do some of their best work for him and come back to him time after time. They know something about Téchiné that too many professional critics don't -- and so, by now, should we.
- Dec 25, 2004