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Elise and Didier fall in love at first sight. She has her own tattoo shop and he plays the banjo in a bluegrass band. They bond over their shared enthusiasm for American music and culture, and dive headfirst into a sweeping romance that plays out on and off stage - but when an unexpected tragedy hits their new family, everything they know and love is tested. An intensely moving portrait of a relationship from beginning to end, propelled by a soundtrack of foot-stomping bluegrass, The Broken Circle Breakdown is a romantic melodrama of the highest order.Written by
The song "If I needed you" performed by Johan Heldenbergh and Veerle Baetens was originally written by Townes Van Zandt in 1972 and 9 years later covered by American country music artists Emmylou Harris and Don Williams as a duet. See more »
Broken Circle Breakdown brings so much to the American audience about blue grass music, about love, and about film.
Who would have thought that a Flemish movie could bring Blue Grass music to mainstream America? I have to start the review of Broken Circle Breakdown with the music. It was illuminating. A whole new music for me to love. Right under our American snob-ridden noses. Harmony from Heaven and a Capella perfection seemingly from under the arches of Princeton. And the lesson in banjo history delivered right from the movie's start by the actor extraordinaire, Johan Heldenbergh, gave new meaning to the poor cousin of the violin, Mr. Banjo. Did I mention the director placing that banjo intro right after one fabulous, sensuous love scene making the banjo, the man, and the woman a threesome with perfect harmony? Mostly though, the music for me made a sad, tragic tale palatable. Without it, I couldn't have stayed.
The story is not a happy one. It's about a young, innocent child dying of cancer. It's about the flame of a perfect love unable to withstand the harsh winds of life outside the circle of their love. And, it's about choices during life that are made by each of us, by ourselves, and for ourselves. Add it all up, and it's a tough movie to take without the music.
All the actors are marvelous. I am sure that had it been cast in the U.S., Harry Connick Jr. would have played Didier and Reese Witherspoon, Elise. Trust me on this, which is why foreign films are inevitably better than American films for very serious stories needing to be told. Veerle (Elise) and Johan are not perfect specimens of the human race, and their faulty teeth and imperfect thighs bring the realism to the screen that is always missing in U.S. dramas. Interestingly enough, the sex scenes are more sexy by the imperfections and their immersion in the roles far beyond what the Academy rewards here.
The movie is being submitted by Belgium for an Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film. I nominate it now for best screenplay as well. Every word in the dialog belongs there, like a set that has nothing in it for show. And, while we are piling on nominations, how about Best Direction? The direction is steady and sure, with timing that shows it's not just comedy that needs to have a steady rhythm. Broken Circle Breakdown has perfect dramatic timing.
There is a God theme in Broken Circle Breakdown where Elise is a believer and Didier is not. It's the age old fight in us all that wants to believe but needs the proof that is never really to be found. I see it woven in, but for me, it's not what the film is about. It's about life while you are here, not about life after you are gone.
There is a moment when Elise says she should have known that love couldn't really be that generous. What a thought. That the cocoon of a perfect love cannot last because love just can't be that generous. First time I've heard love had the power to be generous and it will be with me for a long time to come. It's the stuff poems are made from.
As an American, this is the first film I can recall where I can see the outside world's version of my country, and, its fall from grace as our underbelly of political posturing sets aside that in us that could be greater still. At this particular moment in time, it makes a girl pause for a moment and lament our leaders and my poor voting record in electing them. Had to say it. Enough about politics.
I have to stick just a short sentence in here about the tattoos. Makes you want to go out and get one. According to the credits, the movie was based on the play "The Broken Circle Breakdown Featuring the Cover-Ups of Alabama". But don't think Elise used her tattoos to hide from her real self. Instead, they were adjectives in the story, side bars that showed us how she got there. They are beautiful, and I might just go out and get one that says, Be generous with my love.
Great pick Hamptons Film Festival. It was one of the first movies shown, and that's a high bar to set.
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