23 May 2004 | Mozjoukine
Handsome French weepy contrasts with its maker's other work.
This is an oddity to have come from Constantine Costa Gavras still fresh from his substantial triumph with Z. It's not that the film lacks ambition, with two major stars, a strong support cast and first rate technicians. The surprise is that this one is not about corrupt ideologies mowing down the high minded. It's an odd, rather perverse Grands Boulevards weepy - what used to be called a woman's picture before you risked time in the pillory for using that term.
A bedraggled, aging Montand has a series of chance encounters in a St. Michel cafe which will dominate his next twenty four hours - with animal trainer Valli (excellent in the Corbucci ER PIU) and a middle aged Schneider in whose bed he shortly finds himself. We notice that, unlike Hollywood actors, Europeans find it necessary to take off their pants when they have sex. He sees Valli's music hall act, with a chimp dancing with a pink poodle much to the delight of Japanese tourists, which Montand finds degalasse (the word dying Belmondo applies to Jean Seaberg at the end of BREATHLESS) He also is taken to the soirée run by Schneider's brain damaged husband's mother Kedrova where, drunk and exhausted, Montand manages to communicate with him in gibberish and gesture. Yves and Romy go round the Etoile the wrong way to the exasperation of traffic gendarmes.
A lot of this plays like the surreal non-sequiters in Cocteau, Queneau or lesser Gallic mortals and we have a grim suspicion that the film is leading to some obscure metaphysical statement that will leave you wishing you'd watched the Lee van Cleef movie in number two. However the revelation, when it comes expertly staged and played, makes what we've seen (just about) plausible and leaves us involved with our two mature aged leads.
This one was probably a break or a money spinner for its heavy duty participants but they came at it with high seriousness and the result is more intriguing than most of what was done around it.
A couple of questions. Where is Jean Reno and how does Benigni get that billing for a virtual walk-on? Would his agent like to represent me?