9 February 2019 | wim-vorster
The art of slow cinema
My only other viewing of a Guédiguian film is Une histoire de fou (A history of madness) released with the incongruous and ludicrous English title Don't tell me the boy was mad. It deals with Armenian expats in France and then those who wage war against an unforgivable past.
In La villa (The house by the sea) the director uses Ariane Ascaride again as the central character. After a twenty years absence owing to trauma Angéle returns to the villa of her ailing father. Unlike Une histoire de fou, La villa doesn't rely on a fast moving plot. There are secrets, there is suspense, there are unexpected developments, but it's gentle and 'slice of life' cinema not blockbuster.
I've noticed on reviewer giving it one star and calling it boring.
One has to live this movie. It's akin to a Chekhov play and all the characters (with the possible exception of the children) unfold softly and with immense understanding. There are shades of The Seagull, The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya. Not in circumstance, but in the inner lives of the characters. Angéle can easily be a mixture of Nina, Irina Arkadina and Jeljéna. Her brothers Armand and Joseph are also reminiscent of the Russian master's works. So are the neighbours, their son (Yvan) and the smitten fisherman.
There are no emotional or real summer thunderstorms or winter blizzards. La villa contains real people with day to day needs and wants and at the same time unfulfilled dreams and passions.
The four young visitors who are only seen in two brief scenes could be a jarring note, but then again they portray those with sheer hedonistic goals as opposed to the inhabitants of the villa and their lifelong neighbours.
Yet the family is not totally cut off from the world. Political intrigue also touches their lives but in a humane and personal way.
This is slow cinema at its best with excellent script, editing, direction and acting. The lack of underscoring music is also refreshing. However: La Villa is not for those who can only think in sound bytes.