Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2016 6:17 am 
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Detective work on oneself, in Canada

Thirty-five year-old Parisian divorcee Matthieu (Pierre Deladonchamps, of Stranger by the Lake), who has the charming, weary smile of Patrick Bruel) has a six-year-old son he sees on weekends. Dedication to a demanding job in business keeps him (we later learn) from his true love, writing crime novels; he's written only one, but it was quite successful. One day he gets a phone message from Quebec that his father, whom he's never known, in fact didn't know was alive, has died, and left him a package. His father was Jewish (he didn't know that either) and the internment will be in a couple of days. He flies to Montreal, and the film focuses on the few days of Matthieu's sojourn in Canada and its surprises and revelations. Lioret works quietly, subtly to unfold a tale built of many small details, a search for personal identity and fatherhood played as a mystery story.

Matthieu is met at the airport by Pierre (Canadian stage vet Gabriel Arcand, brother of Denys), his late father's longtime doctor friend, who at first, for a while actually, isn't very friendly. Matthieu isn't interested in the internment, only in meeting the two brothers he's just learned about. Pierre agrees only if Matthieu doesn't reveal who he is.

It also turns out the father died while fishing on a lake, probably of a heart attack, and his body has not been recovered. The two brothers (Pierre-Yves Cardinal, who's worked with Xavier Dolan; and Partick Hivon), decide to search again on the lake, and Matthieu gets involved, pretending to be a friend on vacation. Pierre goes too, to prevent revelations. There's nonetheless a violent drunken quarrel between the brothers that reveals misunderstandings about inheritance. Later Matthieu, whose identity Pierre has revealed to his own family, gets friendly with Pierre's daughter and two little granddaughters, and eventually receives another revelation from his wife.

Deladonchamps, boyish yet not young, self-contained yet pulsing with withheld emotion, with those big lips and open eyes, is a compelling presence. Arcand has quiet authority, and can go from brusque and unkind to reaching out and concerned in the blink of an eye. Whether the action seems to you revelatory or just corny, Deladonchamps and Arcand are fun to watch together, or apart (Deladonchamps has scenes with other people), and Lioret obviously knows this. And the Quebecois world provides a fascinating strangeness too that heightens the sense of the contrast, then growing rapprochement between the two men.

The outdoor sequences up on the big woodsy lake provide a nice break between the urban and interior ones; but wildness comes from one of the brothers back in Montreal later too, and Matthieu gets a bloody nose.

Lioret explored another kind of family mystery with his 2006 Don't Worry, I'm Fine, an important vehicle for Mélanie Laurent and Kad Merad as film actors. He has explained that the new scenario grew out of a novel he was long interested in, Jean-Paul Dubois' Si ce livre pouvait me rapprocher de toi ("If this Book Could Bring Me Close to You"), which Cahiers du Cinéma calls "treacly," but he says he's just used its most rudimentary elements. Deladonchamps deserves to be a bigger star.

Le fils de Jean ("Jean's Son"), 98 mins., debuted Aug. 2016 at Angoulême; also Warsaw Oct.; French theatrical release 31 Aug. 2016. Well received (AlloCiné press rating 3.5/25) but not by all: Les Inrockuptibles found it preachy and sentimental; Le Monde compared the Arcand-Deladonchamps duo to Claude Sautet's films, but thought it was weakened by timidity and too much restraint, and Lioret is that way sometimes. Watched at a public screening at UGC Odeon, Paris, 23 Oct. 2016.


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