7 June 2015 | dbdumonteil
René Féret who died last April,never really won commercial and critical acclaim,although there's a tendency to reassert his best works now.
After "L'Histoire De Paul" ,which was cinema Verite style and thus disconcerted the audience ,came a much more accessible movie "La Communion Solennelle :nevertheless,it met mixed critical favor,leftist critics from "La Saison Cinematographique" calling it something cold,a really missed opportunity.
Some objections to this 1977 work remain:the vignettes are sometimes too short ,too few of the characters are really endearing (Philippe Leotard,and Dalio ,who represents the memory of the French cinema,are the stand-out),and the viewer quickly gets lost in this kaleidoscopic vision,although it is sometimes fascinating.
A complaint,sung by the great Serge Reggiani,who is not featured in the film,tries to link all the segments of the past of this family who celebrates a solemn communion on a farm :the mass is not shown and it's a sign of the times:religion which had been a yoke for years,as far as sex before the wedding was concerned (several sequences deal with that)is slowly fading away and the guests are more interested in the "Pièce Montée" ,the traditional cake made of cream-puffs stuck with Nougatine.
During the banquet,memories come back in a desultory way,flouting chronology ;the audience is given historic dates such as 1914,1936 and 1939,and it's hard to distinguish the characters with a few exceptions. In his bombastic "Les Uns Et Les Autres ",there is a similar problem,but Lelouch's commercial treatment will smooth things over.Féret,on the other hand ,refuses any dramatization:the WW1 sequence hardly lasts one minute and the death of the child in the cauldron is interrupted by a return to present ,that is to say the feast.
The first flashback is perhaps the best:two farmers talk about the future ,of the marriage of their offspring and of the cattle ,and they mix the two subjects,it is so absurd that you can easily mistake the youth for the beasts :it seems to come from Emile Zola's "La Terre".
The social ladder does not seem to work for this family ,no member really makes his way of life ,notwithstanding some of them ,throwing their weight around:a NCO,telling off a GI ,who is his cousin though;the new chief,telling the miners in the showers that during work,he's got no family;the family trying to imitate the nobles with their clumsy servant.
For all that ,you should see this movie,weren't it for its unusual form -which was not that much new anyway:remember Duvivier's "Untel Père Et Fils" (1940)which was also looked upon as a failure- and its kaleidoscopic magic lantern of memory .
For people interested in this director's work,I would recommend "Le Mystere Alexina"(1985),a hermaphrodite's story,arguably his finest hour.