Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Les Destinées sentimentales

Les Destinées / Ödets vägar. FR/CH © 2000 Arena Films / TF1 / CAB Prod. PC also: Arcade / Canal+ / TSR. P: Bruno Pésery, Jean-Louis Porchet, Gérard Ruey. D: Olivier Assayas. SC: Jacques Fieschi, Olivier Assayas – based on the novel trilogy (1934–1936) by Jacques Chardonne. DP: Éric Gautier - camera: Aaton 35-III (Technovision/Cooke and Kowa Prominar lenses) - Éclair - Fuji - colour - Kowa Scope and Technovision 2,35:1. PD: Katia Wyszkop, Frédéric Bénard, Gérard Marcireau, Jacques Mollon, Ivan Niclass. SFX: Hans Frei. Cost: Anaïs Romand. Makeup: Véronique Hebet, Thi Thanh Tu Nguyen. Hair: Fabienne Bressan, Christine Leaustic, Annie Marandin. M: compositions by Guillaume Lekeu perf. L'Ensemble de Musique Oblique. Waltzes by Emile Waldteufel and Olivier Metra perf. L'Ensemble Sorties d'Artistes. S: Jean-Claude Laureux, William Flageollet. ED: Luc Barnier. Casting: Antoinette Boulat. Assistant director: Marie-Jeanne Pascal. Production manager: Jean-Yves Asselin. C: Emmanuelle Béart (Pauline), Charles Berling (Jean Barnery), Isabelle Huppert (Nathalie), Olivier Perrier (Philippe Pommerel), Dominique Reymond (Julie Desca), André Marcon (Paul Desca), Alexandra London (Louise Desca), Julie Depardieu (Marcelle), Louis-Do De Lencquesaing (Arthur Pommerel), Mia Hansen-Løve (Aline), Georges Wilson (Robert Barnery). Locations: Indre-et-Loire, Charente. 180 min. Not released in Finland. An Institut Français print with English subtitles by Ian Burley viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Olivier Assayas), 28 August 2012.

Three parts: I La Femme de Jean Barnery, II Pauline, III Le Service ivoire.

As in Carlos, Assayas displays here his mastery with the form of the historical epic. The historical arc here extends from the year 1900 to the mid-1930s.

There is in Assayas' films a real interest in production and design, in arts and crafts. In this film: in porcelain and cognac production; in other films: cybermedia, rock industry, and film production are examined also from a practical point of view. In Summer Hours the fate of art and design objects is an economical question for the family.

Jacques Chardonne (1884-1968), whose work I have not read, was reportedly a conservative writer, and after WWII he served a prison sentence for his active collaboration with the Vichy government. I would guess that his great novel trilogy is a work of capitalist realism. Richard Suchenski writes that the film adaptation by Assayas is faithful to Chardonne.

Les Destinées sentimentales belongs to the rare tradition of the cinema of the Viscontian epic, and I cannot think of another movie which would come closer to the Viscontian standard of Il gattopardo. In these works their creators are proud of their stance of objectivity. The protagonists are the masters of a vanishing glory, facing their destinies with dignity. The story has also affinities with the bourgeois family sagas of Thomas Mann.

The love story in the heart of Les Destinées sentimentales between Pauline (Emmanuelle Béart) and Jean (Charles Berling) is moving, unique and surprising to the end. There is a period of paradise in Switzerland, a period of estrangement ("I don't remember the man I was then"), and a period of final reconciliation.

French Protestantism is an important element. Jean starts as a minister, and there are affinities in Charles Berling's performance to those of Lars Hanson as Gösta Berling and Dimmesdale (The Scarlet Letter).

The print looks immaculate. In the beginning and later there are visual effects of a monochrome / tinted look. At times the print looks like duped or like it has been struck from a digital intermediate. The fine distinctions of celadon and ivory hues, important for this family saga in big porcelain business, are unrecognizable on this print.

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