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Mathilde Zasinger, nine years old, living in Paris, is a little girl like who would be like all others if she did not have a mother suffering from mental disorder. Madame Zasinger is a loving mother but her behavior is unfortunately erratic and unpredictable. She does strange things like wandering at night in a wedding dress or take the train all the way to Normandy not knowing why. The best thing she has ever done is to have given Mathilde a wonderful present, an owl which the faculty of speech. From the day the bird entered her life, the troubled little girl has had a friend and confidante that helps her bear the situation as best as she can.Written by
From the first scene on, we feel something is wrong ;a mother and her daughter meet the headmistress of the school ;the teacher complains that Mathilde has no friends ;but it's the mother's attitude which puzzles the viewer : she worries about her syntax errors ;worse, when the meeting is over,she will not remember what she came here for .
Suffering from mental disorder which recalls Alzeihmer's desease, the mother seems more and more irrational: buying an owl as a pet is not common;besides,the "removal" and the train she takes to go nowhere make us think ,that ,little by little , mother and daughter reverse the roles .
The owl can speak : but it may well be the little girl ,left to her own devices ,talking with herself ;Mathilde is a clever mature girl (that's what the teacher says) and she has to face her mom's mental disorder and the dad's absence :he has deserted the house for some time .As he is completely sane and seems to have a steady job (he speaks of his patients) ,we can wonder why it took him so much time to comprehend why he had to take in his own daughter.
The director (who also plays the thankless part of the mother) films the owl with virtuosity :she really makes us FEEL how this confident becomes more and more important to the lonesome girl ;the bird does stare at you ,he seems to be everywhere in the room without a single special effect . It might remind you of Kenneth Loach's "Kes " (a boy ill-treated by his family whose friend is a hawk) ,but it's more dreamlike ,closer to a fable than to social drama .
The owl is a night bird ,who lives in the forest where the fairy tales mom and girl tell each other at night take place;a bird you do not see in the daylight , the ideal pet for someone who has something to conceal ;when his work is over,he will fly away ...
This is a disconcerting movie:not from the children's market ,in spite of the subject, it has not really found an audience among the grown-ups either.But on the French scene ,give it a chance: it goes off the beaten track.
Minor quibble :why do FRENCH directors always choose songs in ENGLISH?
"Oh my mama " fits the movie like a glove ,but why not a French version? (or at least subtitles); and why "winter wonderland" ,a carol which is not part of the French culture at all? why not "Petit Papa Noel " ,huh?
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