Cherchez Hortense (2012) Poster

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Bonitzer's back!
I can see why such a movie could be so easily dismissed by your regular Hollywood addict, it's slow, rather smart and very much grounded in reality, and it's your typical Parisian literary approach to cinema story telling. Although I should emphasize the fact that I don't use the word typical in a derogatory way. Desplechin, Podalydes, Bonitzer, Resnais and other French directors, may seem stylistically or thematically close, but in truth are very different from one another. They take movies seriously, the European way, for them it's not about plot or sending a clear message to the viewer, they're more concerned with lofty concepts, creating a mood or simply sharing their views on the human condition. So yes, the protagonist is an intellectual (so is Bonitzer, he used to be a philosophy teacher) and yes, the thing happening to him may not seem to warrant a 2 hour movie, his life is boring, and so is often our own. Bonitzer, shows the naked truth, and it's risky, because that's not why most people go to movies, and I get that, but the movie is actually fun (in parts), never sentimental but sincere and touching. It's a fine movie, honest, solid, definitely worthy of the price of admission. It's very French and definitely naturalistic and intellectual, but pretentious it is not, but to put it simply, it'll be freezing in Hell before Bonitzer starts dumbing down his movies!
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A sweet romantic comedy
Gordon-115 February 2013
This film is about a man in an unhappy marriage, who agrees to help his brother in law's friend. The help turns his life in unexpected directions.

"Cherchez Hortense" depicts an unhappy family convincingly. The lack of communication between the couple and the tension between the mother and the son is displayed in a way that is not over the top. The husband's chance encounter with Aurore flows naturally, and the progression of their friendship is a pleasure to watch. The Judge acts appears pleasant on the surface but he is doing everything he could to be difficult towards others. The plethora of human interaction portrayed in this film is like a miniature world of everyday life. Life can be bitter for some, sweet for others. "Cherchez Hortense" is a sweet romantic comedy.
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Fun and wit in one film
cinematic_aficionado7 September 2013
A marriage on the rocks, where both sides look for something on the side. The only sparkle comes in the form of the Mrs asking her husband for assistance with an acquaintance's immigration issues.

In theory it should have been easy; his father is a high ranking civil servant. Given however the dysfunctional relationship between father and son, it makes it a rather mammoth task and it gets more interesting when the son falls for the émigré and thus intensifies the efforts.

In a typically French fashion, this comedy score high and wit and sophistication with a generous dose of satire towards modern life and interpersonal relationships.
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Going to pieces
robert-temple-15 March 2015
The first thing that needs to be said about this film is that the Hortense of the title is not a woman or a girl. Hortense is the surname of a high official in the French Government, named Henri Hortense. The French title is CHERCHEZ HORTENSE, and the translation LOOKING FOR HORTENSE gives a wrong impression, and also fails to convey the urgency of the French title, since 'look for' is passive whereas 'search for' is more accurate. The film stars Jean-Pierre Bacri, who looks rumpled, worried, unshaven and at his wits' end for most of the film, although this is intentional. His wife is played by Kristin Scott Thomas, brilliant as usual, but this time looking haggard, distracted, unkempt, and hopeless, which is also intentional. The other lead role is played by Isabelle Carré, as the young Croatian immigrant named Zorica. Scott Thomas is having a serious mid-life crisis and behaving irrationally, and is in the grip of a manic addiction to tobacco which is so extreme that everyone in the film criticises her for it, and when she cannot find her cigarettes and is desperate for a fag, she cannot focus on any other comments or subject, but is wholly obsessed with the need for a smoke. She allows her marriage to go to pieces without appearing to have the slightest rational grip on reality anymore. She has a disgusting brother, with an even more disgusting girlfriend, who when visiting slip into the bathroom to have a quickie and emerge with satisfied grins on their faces and their hands still all over each other. Seriously sleazy. The film is a savage satirical critique of French officialdom, and of modern French life, frankly. The film is directed by Pascal Bonitzer, who in 2003 made another film about a mid-life crisis entitled SMALL CUTS (PETITES COUPURES), in which Kristin Scott Thomas also appeared. Apart from Scott Thomas, the most brilliant performance in this film is undoubtedly by Claude Rich, as Bacri's father. How does he do it? One's jaws drop as he drolls out his outrageous lines, such as: 'Am I homosexual if I sleep with men?' He is a senior judge and is the quintessence of hauteur. One of my favourite French actors, Philippe Duclos, plays a magnificent cameo as the high official Hortense, dripping with icy politeness and hypocrisy. Duclos is familiar as the lean and harried hater of official corruption, 'Monsieur Juge', to those like myself who are admirers of the police series SPIRAL (ENGRENAGES, which could creatively be translated 'all tied up in knots', 2005 onwards, see my review). Much of the pointed satire in this film is likely to be lost on people who are unaware of how corrupt France is. The story is a rambling one, without much in the way of structure. It more or less concerns the plight of Zorica who is about to be thrown out of the country for lacking a visa. As the characters in this film all go to pieces, they seem to tie themselves up in knots to an increasing degree at the same time. In other words, while unravelling, they also ravel. Think of it as Tesla's alternating current.
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Cool, slow, intriguing - if you can stay awake!
flickernatic1 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Whoever classified this movie as a 'comedy' must have a strange sense of humour. Mildly amusing in parts, it is hardly full of laughs. Indeed it seems a rather sad story - ageing French professor Hauer is asked by his partner, Iva, to use his high-level contacts in the judiciary to secure the future of an illegal immigrant, Aurore. He visits his father, a judge, hoping to get access to the man at the top, Hortense. However, his father has little time for him (figuratively and literally) and Hortense has even less. Hauer discovers his partner is having an affair with a younger man and tells her to leave their apartment and their young, brattish son. He encounters a student who turns out to be the illegal immigrant, Aurore. A relationship develops . . . A gun, gay oriental youth,Japanese cuisine and a visual reference to cherry blossom are added to the mix. It's all quite fragmented and puzzling and very French/Parisian - but also sufficiently intriguing to keep you watching (or rather me; my wife fell asleep!). I'm not sure why, but I did enjoy it. (Viewed at Screen 3, The Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK 31 August 2013).
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Looking For Style.
writers_reign9 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Born in 1946 Bonitzer had just entered his teens when the much-vaunted Nouvelle Vague had its moment in the sun and clearly it left a mark on an impressionable mind because Bonitzer's day job used to be penning reviews for Cahiers du Cinema, the infamous breeding-ground of Truffaut, Godard and their cronies. Further, Bonitzer clearly thinks it clever to take top post-Nouvelle Vague talents like Jean-Pierre Bacri, Claude Rich, Isabelle Carre and Kristen Scott Thomas and saddle them with a Nouvelle Vague type plot, six parts pretentiousness to three parts gobbledygook. The whole thing is shrouded in a bizarre non-colour as if Bonitzer couldn't quite justify shooting in the black-and-white stock of choice of the new waveleteers but at the same time couldn't quite bring himself to shoot in decent colour. Actors of this calibre will always triumph over merde but unless you are a die-hard fan of one or more of the leading actors give this one a miss.
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Cosy and lazy: routine Parisian film-making
vostf17 September 2012
You've got the typical subsidised French movie: the writer-director-author puts in some nice bits about his characters and he is pretty content with his flimsy story. Looks like low production specs with a Parisian artsy bourgeois coating. Mid-life crisis & intellectual couple trouble - check. Political/social issue - check. Father-son relationship - check. Male friendship, mmmm.... not so sure. Heterosexual unease in a gay context - check. Hypocrisy and shallowness of the powerful - check.

Quite frankly it is boring to think so many movies are made in France about Parisian intellectuals who have little problems in their lives but who really suffer because they're aware of all the misery outside. The title says it all, and we can guess Pascal Bonitzer was not sidelined when a release titled had to be decided upon. The title means nothing, it doesn't stay, it is most probably a pretentious intellectual guess game.

All in all it is somewhat distressing to see such movies that go nowhere and are plenty happy with it. Cherchez Hortense doesn't go as far as being pretentious author stuff, he never wants to assert a message, that's what makes it nice and very forgettable. And with such a poor title it is a movie that can be forgotten even before you seriously think of seeing it.
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