25 January 2009 | stuka24
Soaring critique of pretentious intellos.
If you ever pretended to be a haughty intellectual, or have the chance to know a struggling artist, this film will surely make you laugh, think, and maybe even learn what to avoid. From the three characters, you'll probably have one that's "your thing", whereas the other two are just "spectator sports" to you. In my case it was Bertrand the literature teacher, constantly frustrated and angry about "never finishing his big great novel" whereas in fact he neglected his personal life, loathed his job, and wasn't even half as well read as he thought. Besides the unimportant fact that the produces of his toils were worthless, starting by him, and a universal fact agreed by everybody. The intellectual infatuation with his looser pupil was tense and his ultimate revelation took me off guard. The way the 3 stories contact briefly, never enough for making any character change anything but interesting for the possibilities that would open were they able to, was probably the more "architectural" feature of this well crafted film. Sandrine Kiberlain's actress was the only character I didn't ever feel any empathy for. Probably she was just too cold, uninteresting and pretentious, besides being quite an envious person. I have the feeling is the one the director likes the most, which wouldn't be a surprise given we're watching a film. If only she had had a bit more
. Cora -the singer- was fine instead. She wasn't very responsible or adult in her choices, but at least is spontaneous, learns fast from bad experiences, and doesn't bother those around her with her "untapped talent". I liked how she escaped from the crony's derelict "studio"! She's the younger from/ of the 3, and it shows in that her life can still take different, unpredictable turns, like it does when you're in your twenties. The scene where she dances with a friend at her dead-end job was great. Any lesser actor would seem artificial there.
I liked that both Alice and Bertrand are "without attributes" like Musil would say. Nothing good ever comes out of them. I don't recall them ever laughing, for instance (Alice walks like an ostrich, without any grace (and we know she can be sexy in other films)). Probably Bertrand , by telling the truth to his beleaguered wife (in a very literary fashion) "learns the lesson". I found that scene the most powerful I've seen in a long time. Like a good therapy session. In contrast, I found the scene at the Manga festival both out of touch with reality and with her sour, ungrateful and feeling less treading through all of the movie. Were it an American film, one would always suspect the "studio hand" trampled on the ending to make it more palatable. In this case
maybe it was self censorship?
The cliché I disliked the most was that Alice's sister turned out to be such a roaring success, the "nagging neglected housewife who is brimming with untapped energy and vitality". What's worse, to show that "growth", she just bought an expensive dress and is smiling all the time, suddenly looking "sexy". Looks like a deodorant commercial, right?
Some shots are quite beautiful, like Alice speaking over the phone with the city lights reflected over the window pane. An urban beauty, for those who think that would be an oxymoron.
I found it educative that all of them once start to brag before time, then their environment seems to smile on them (Alice's brother in law suddenly respects her, Cora drops the casting that's below her level and personally dangerous, Bertrand is suddenly admired by her wife). But when reality bites, they all feel worse off than before. Surely "society" takes its toll on failing, but watching they fall after their ballooned expectations explode taught me you'd better be sure you'd "made it" before you tell your in-laws!
I enjoyed this movie, suffered with the awkward situations (great script, direction, everything) and learned how to be less pretentious.
And at least try not to neglect "life" for "Art". While some morale of the film "love is all you need" is quite corny and misleading for a film that pretends to be intelligent, the feeling that embraced me after watching this film was relief. Somebody had been through there, escaped the trappings of "neurosis d' artiste" and was able to make a film that while not pretending to be a masterpiece, it moves you. Not bad, right?