24 May 2005 | writers_reign
Malle made only two films after this one, Damage, and Vanya On 42nd Street and it's tempting to view Milou en Mai as a rehearsal for Vanya though in the end the differences outweigh the similarities. It IS set on a country estate that is running to seed and there IS a 'Vanya' figure in Milou himself (Michel Piccoli) who more or less tends the estate in the absence of his siblings - one deceased, one pursuing his own career. There IS a family gathering with all that that implies, bickering, truth-telling, laughter, tears, accusations, recriminations etc. Perhaps above all it is a MOOD piece which does put it in the same universe as Chekhov but it is ultimately too easy to read it in this way. It was a masterstroke to place it at the time of the student riots in Paris, May, 1968 and this strengthens the links with Chekhov who, of course, wrote his own masterpieces at a time when Russia was undergoing changes unacknowledged by his gentlefolk with their heads in the metaphorical sand of dachas serenely remote from the turbulence. This is a film of great lyricism and melancholia with a gentle Jazz music score by Stephane Grappelly and the action, such as it is, is kick-started by the death of Milou's mother which necessitates summoning the family for the funeral. Again like Chekhov what we have here is an ensemble piece rather than Leading Man, Leading Lady, Juvenile, Ingenue, etc and the acting is uniformly excellent from Miou-Miou as Milou's daughter, Camille, to Francois Berleand as the family lawyer who drives a red Alfa Romeo and still carries a torch for Camille, to Valerie Lemercier in the small but telling role of Madame Boutelleau. The events in far-off Paris punctuate but are not allowed to dominate and barely to influence the action leaving the family - and non-family - to quarrel, couple, fail-to-couple and relate the occasional home truth. In short a lovely Autumnal movie.