Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 1:14 pm 
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YOLANDE MOREAU AND PIERRE MOURE IN THE LONG FALLING

Desperate housewife

Eric Lartigau's The Big Picture flashily but unconvincingly adapts Douglas Kennedy's bestseller -- a dubious imitation of a Patricia Highsmith Tom Ripey novel. Martin Provost, on the other hand, has produced a French adaptation of an English-language thriller that seems like a story Patricia Highsmith might really like. The doomed murderess tries to escape detection but cannot succeed. Martin Provost again uses Yolande Moreau, the superb French character actress who starred in his much celebrated 2008 Séraphine (three Césars, one for Best Film), this time in a very different story, but again a slow burner of a movie that builds from a dull monotony into a frenzy of nerves involving more and more people.

The result is quite a good film. Provost and his screenplay co-writer Marc Abdelnour give he story a precipitous noirish excitement that is the more surprising for involving a matronly, abstracted-looking woman. Cinematography by Claire Denis regular Agnès Godard provides subtly handsome images. This understated crime film and character study has a lot going for it. The original novel is by Irishman Keith Ridgway, his first. The French title is Où va la nuit? (Where Does the Night Go?) The setting has been transferred from Ireland to France, with the later scenes in Brussels.

The film begins with a man (Eric Godin) running over a young woman with his car on a rural road. He admits to the homicide and gets six months in jail. His wife, Rose Mayer (Yolande Moreau), a plump, taciturn woman maintains the small farm. When he comes back, he commences to get drunk and beat her on a regular basis. One night she goes out to where the girl was run over and runs over her husband. She washes the car and tries to cover her tracks. She seems not to be a suspect but goes to Brussels to stay with her gay son Thomas (Pierre Moure). He welcomes her initially, but it is obvious that there is no real place for her there. She meets a friend of Thomas' who is a journalist (Laurent Capelluto), and eventually, Thomas' lover Vincent (Valentijn Dhaenens). The detective shows up and tells Rose that not by his choice but due to police policy, the car is being tested. It is a warning. He also talks to Thomas' journalist friend, who in turn eventually confronts Rose, hoping for a revelation that will be a story for him and also may help her receive more humane treatment by authorities. In the course of things more details of the family's dysfunction emerge.

But Rose, already de trop in her son's world and now afraid, begins disappearing. She flees a night club when she spots the detective. She leaves her son's place and stays elsewhere, winding up at a room in a house run by a nice lady (Édith Scob) who has been abandoned by her husband and who bonds with her. Rose and her son have a warm, if a little awkward, connection, but when she tells him what she has done his reaction is a disturbed, confused mixture of anger and guilt. The sensitivity Provost showed toward mental derangement in Séraphine eventually serves him again here.

The film's erratic sequence once she goes to Brussels reflects Rose Mayer's confusion and panic, but the film's poise is shown in the way at the same time things are kept quite clear for the audience. Moreau's recessive, understated performance gives her character a sense of mystery and complexity, but also that Highsmithian sense of a criminal trapped in his crime. Finally what began as a minimalist, almost Beckettian drama of family desperation and provincial ennui ends as an offbeat police thriller with Thelma and Louise overtones. Editing by Ludo Troch works well in conveying the increasingly claustrophobic world of Madame Mayer. Martin Provost has again shown himself to be a filmmaker of quality and Yolande Moreau remains an actor at the top of her game.

The Long Falline/Où va la nuit opens in France May 4, 2011. It was seen and reviewed as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and UniFrance and screened during the series (which runs from March 3 to 13, 2011) at the Walter Reade Theater uptown, IFC Center downtown, and BAMcinématek in Brooklyn.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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