I confess that I have never been a big fan of Claude Lelouch. 'A Man and a Woman' ('Un homme et une femme') did not make a strong impression on me more than half a century ago when I first saw him. I felt then that Lelouch puts too much emphasis on the music and the aesthetics of the image to the detriment of the emotions and the sincerity of the story unfolding on the screen. I stand by that opinion. I came out of the screening of his new film, 'Les plus belles années d'une vie', which brings back the lead characters with similar sensations. Almost a lifetime has passed over the actors, over the director, and over part of the audience. The actors have aged beautifully and they represent the luminous part of this film. The director seems to have remained true to his views. I, as a spectator, was not impressed now either.
Claude Lelouch, however, had good reasons to return to the love story that he made famous between Anne (Anouk Aimée) and Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant). The two huge French actors are still here, and the opportunity to bring them on screen in consistent roles is a delight for the public, for the director who has the happy opportunity to work with them, and, I hope, for them as well. Trintignant, visibly limited phisically, has a difficult role, which he fulfills with a nonchalance and charm stronger even than the ones he offered in his glory days. Anouk Aimée radiates beauty - physical beauty little touched by time completed by the inner nobility in resonance with the role she plays.
'Les plus belles années d'une vie' addresses a very serious and painful topic, that of the age that is increasingly affecting the memory and the mental functions of aged persons before the physical ones. The subject has been approached in a few films in recent years, some of them succeeding to present different and often emotional aspects of this kind of problems that more and more of us, ourselves or our families are facing. The reunion after many years between Anne and Jean-Louis, the woman's attempt to recover some of the man's affective memory by reminding her of the love affair they once lived and carrying him through the places where this had happened, could have added yet another consistent cinematic creation. It was not to be, because Lelouch didn't resist the temptation to quote excessively from his highly successful film and to use the same techniques that drown emotion in music. The scenes that I liked the most in the film are those in which the two elders interact with each other, trying to climb, with hesitant steps, the ladder of memories. The scenes that I liked the least are the superimposed images and the episode featuring Monica Bellucci , which seems artificially added. 'Les plus belles ans d'un vie' gives us the pleasure of seeing Trintignant and Anouk Aimée together, but not much more. Trintignant had a similar experience, on a similar theme, with Michael Haneke in 'Amour'. The same acting skills have served there a profound and ruthless film, while here we remain in the comfort zone of the kitsch.
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