A once great actor, Serge Tanneur (Fabrice Luchini), has retired from the limelight. Too much pressure meant that one day, he simply decided he would act no more. For the past three years, he has lived in solitude on the Île de Ré, spending his time cycling through the windswept landscape. Fellow actor Gauthier Valence (Lambert Wilson), whose career is flying high, is planning a production of Molière's play The Misanthrope and wants to offer Serge the role of Filinte. Gauthier is convinced he will accept, since Serge himself has become a misanthrope, withdrawn from society and raging against the world. It would be wonderful to see him return in that part. But Serge plays hard to get, first of all as he want to play the title role. Instead of committing, he suggests they rehearse together for the week. Things look to be going well, especially when a mysterious Italian divorcee (Maya Sansa) brings a romantic spark into his life. With the play's producer, Gauthier's agent and his lover ...Written by
This is an intelligent film, a rather sour, grown-up comedy that captures something of the misanthropic theme of the Molière play that has a large role in it. But you really don't need to be familiar with "The Misanthrope" (1666) to enjoy this film. It does help, however, if you love good acting, are a bit of a francophile, and are prone to occasional bouts of contempt for your fellow human beings.
Once you begin to note the key differences in the temperaments of these two old friends, the scope of the film expands. It's about the continued relevance of classic drama thanks to unchanging human nature. It's about the art of acting itself, the struggle to nail one's character through a peculiar mixture of repetition and imagination. It's about the problem of casting roles, about why actors, however experienced and ambitious they might be, just cannot play certain parts credibly. It's about how popular entertainers are rewarded handsomely for allowing their audience to avoid confronting the flaws in human nature. And it's about the line between success and failure in life and in love, and how, Hollywood notwithstanding, having real talent and genuine feeling is no guarantee of a happy outcome.
The setting on the windswept Atlantic island (Ile de Ré) is used to great effect as a way of concentrating the concealed hostility between the two main characters. And there is a lovely homage to a scene in François Truffaut's most famous film that should please film buffs. This is a literate film and one which Truffaut himself would surely have admired.
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