Friday, November 13, 2009

French Film: Grade B

French Film (2008)

Hugh Bonneville, Eric Cantona, Anne-Marie Duff, Victoria Hamilton, Douglass Henshall; Director Jackie Oudney.

This light romantic comedy is remarkably witty, very well-acted, and nicely directed. Two couples in contemporary London are all friends. Jed and Cheryl (Bonneville and Hamilton) have been living together for ten years but the relationship is stale, even though Jed insists that it “works.” They begin to see a couples counselor. Their friends Marcus and Sophie (Henshall and Duff) are in a seemingly ideal romantic relationship.

Blanketing all the couples’ chit-chat are intercut scenes from a supposed documentary interview of a “major” French film director (Cantona), who self-importantly explains what love is, how it works, and how to recognize it. He illustrates his points with clips from his own films. These clips are melodramatic black and white relationship scenes that look like they could be from the French New Wave of the early ‘60’s, actually attractive in their own right. Cantona’s pontifications are hilariously pompous, with his bearded visage and thick French accent, waving a cigarette in one hand with satirical gravity. He serves as something like the Greek Chorus, commenting indirectly on the romantic relationships developing in the main part of the movie.

So Marcus falls in love with another woman (real love this time, though, he insists), and the couples counseling goes south. Everything falls apart but there is a predictable happy ending (as the French film director had already explained: “Ze ending ees found in ze beginning”).

The acting is first rate in this film and that’s good enough reason to enjoy it. The humor is terrific, although it is very British humor, not American farce. Cantona’s performance is the highlight. The film reminds me of early Woody Allen films like Manhattan, couples walking about and sitting in cafes saying clever things. It is all just talking heads where nothing is discovered, but a delight nevertheless.

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