11 October 2008 | richard-1787
A remarkable movie if you know Proust but aren't looking for him
If you're looking for a movie that faithfully reduces In Search of Lost Time to 2 hours or so, this isn't it. But then, that's impossible, so you will be frustrated in your search.
What this is is a problematic movie.
If you don't know Proust's 4000 page novel, In Search of Lost Time, I suspect a lot of this movie won't make sense to you. If you do know it, on the other hand, you might be upset that X does not look like Proust's character A, that Y scene was left out, etc.
So, the best way to enjoy this movie - and there is a lot in it to enjoy - is to know Proust's novel well enough so that you can make sense of the movie, but then to forget about it and treat this as a movie that is not trying to film Proust's novel.
I could go on about the way the film jumps from scene to scene based on recollections of the narrator. One might say that that's Proustian, but Proust does not in fact jump from one short scene to the next. So I'll leave that aside.
What this is, for me - and I have seen the movie several times - is a remarkable collection of performances by some of France's greatest actors and actresses - and John Malkovich. The performances by Catherine Deneuve (as Odette; no, she does not look at all like I had imagined Odette from the novel, but she is radiant in this movie), Emmanuelle Béart (as Gilberte Swann; ditto), John Malkovich (Charlus; ditto in spades; he does not look at all like Proust describes Charlus, but he creates a remarkably moving and coherent character), Vincent Perez (Morel; he may look like Proust's Morel, but he gives him more depth), and Marie-France Pisier (Mme Verdurin) are all absolutely first rate, beautiful to watch. They make the film for me. Other characters important in Proust are either reduced to very small roles (the Duke and Duchess de Guermantes, the Prince and Princess de G) or vanish altogether (Swann, Marcel's father). But watching the above great actors and actresses give great performances is, for me, the great value of this movie.
If you want Proust, you'll just have to read it.
But if you want to see some of France's greatest actors and actresses at their best, you could do a lot worse than this movie.