Saturday, June 11, 2011

La Tête en friche / My Afternoons with Margueritte

Päivät Margueritten kanssa / Mina eftermiddagar med Margueritte. FR © 2010 ICE3 / K.J.B. Production / France 3 Cinéma / Studio Canal / DD Productions. [EX: Gérard Depardieu]. P+D: Jean Becker. SC: Jean Becker, Jean-Loup Dabadie - based on the novel (2009) by Marie-Sabine Roger - references to Albert Camus: La Peste; Romain Gary: La Promesse de l'aube [and Luis Sepúlveda: Le Vieux qui lisait des romans d'amour / Un viejo que leía novelas de amor, tbc]. DP: Arthur Cloquet. M: Laurent Voulzy. S: Vincent Montrobert. ED: Jacques Witta. Casting: Colomba Falcucci. Loc: Pons (Charente-Maritime). Cast: Gérard Depardieu (Germain Chazes), Gisèle Casadesus (Margueritte), Sophie Guillemin (Annette, bus driver), Maurane (Francine, la patronne du café), Patrick Bouchitey (Landremont), Jean-François Stévenin (Jojo), François-Xavier Demaison (Gardini), Claire Maurier (Jacqueline, Germain's mother). 82 min. Released in Finland by Atlantic Film with Finnish subtitles only by primetext, La Peste by Juha Mannerkorpi checked by Jukka Mannerkorpi, La Promesse de l'aube by Ulla-Kaarina Jokinen. A 35 mm print viewed at Kinopalatsi 9, Helsinki, 11 June 2011

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Arricam LT, Cooke S4 Lenses. - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219). - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format). - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic). - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

La Tête en friche is a labour of love from Jean Becker and Gérard Depardieu. It is the story of the slow-witted, almost illiterate Germain, believed dyslexic, who meets on his favourite park bench Margueritte, 95 years, who opens the world of books for him. Although Germain is not handsome, he has an affair with the beautiful bus driver Annette who wants a baby with him because she knows Germain is full of love. Germain takes care of his mother Jacqueline who suffers from dementia. Germain is a "quatorze juillet baby", the product of a one night stand with a soldier who fell in Algeria. Germain has been unwanted from day zero, harassed at home, bullied at school not only by his schoolmates but especially viciously by his teacher. The slow-witted but good-natured Germain is still bullied by almost everybody.

The peripeteia of this story is when Margueritte reads to Germain Roman Gary's novel La Promesse de l'aube. The words mean deeply for him, and the experience is a turning-point in his life. He finds a motivation to learn to read, to understand his identity in a more deeply meaningful way, to process experiences and memories, to take his life in his own hands, and to help Margueritte who has been evicted from her relatively good circumstances. His mother has finally died, and he examines the pathetic box of childhood memorabilia (complete with his umbilical cord) with a healthy sense of disrespect. He inherits his mother's house, but that is small compensation to the fact that there was never a loving look, a loving word in his childhood.

Based on a novel by Marie-Sabine Roger, Becker and Dépardieu have created a film of strong feelings and well-rounded characters. The performances are first-rate, including Gisèle Casadesus (*1914, a Comédie-Française veteran) and Sophie Guillemin (*1977) as the women who make Germain's life worth living. Having lost his good looks Dépardieu now performs with the fine, quiet command of his presence only.

Visually there is a disregard of style and beauty. The film has been shot on 35 mm and the print screened was in 35 mm. Perhaps because of the digital intermediate the image was often soft, sometimes even with a dreary video look, although many close-ups and interior shots are ok. Yet the movie manages to impress with the sunny warmth of the Charente-Maritime surroundings.

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