Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 4:49 am 
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GABIN VERDET AND TAHAR RAHIM IN RÉPARER LES VIVANTS

It all comes together

Katell Quillévéré's third feature adapts Maylis de Kerangal’s bestselling French novel (Mend the Living), a humanistic medical thriller about events leading up to a heart transplant. It begins with Simon (Gabin Verdet), the bleach-blond surfer boy whose car accident makes him brain dead and his perfect organs available for replacing others' failing ones, if his devastated parents, Marianne and Vincent (Emmanuelle Seigner and Kool Shen) are willing. Meanwhile there are closeups of the medical professionals involved, young cardiologist Thomas Rémige (Tahar Rahim) and his master Docteur Pierre Révol (Bouli Lanners) and nurse Jeanne (Monia Chokri). Then we observe Claire (Anne Dorval of Xavier Dolan's Mommy), the lady who is to receive Simon's heart, a lesbian classical pianist and mother of two college-age sons (Finnegan Oldfield, Théo Cholbi) whose heart's days are numbered.

Like Tell No One, a French version of an American crime story way better than Hollywood could do it, this is a ridiculously vivid, clear, humanistic and tasteful version of what seems the most conventional US TV medical drama material, and you cannot but admire it, while in the back of your mind still wondering, why did she bother? Quillévéré's leap forward as a director of complex, demanding movie dramas - with more budget and more name cast members - is also a step back out of the raw indie territory she inhabited in her first two movies into a safer, more mainstream, even if demanding, work.

But it's still an ambitious, complex film, and not only does she never slip into the saccharine territory that the material threatens to draw her into, but she provides some lovely touches, while the whole fits together impeccably. In a lovely opening passage Simon leaves his girlfriend Juliette (Galatea Bellugi) in the wee hours, leaping out the window, races a pal, suits up and surfs - water sequence magnificently shot to show both perfect marriage with the waves and threat of death. Then comes the fatal drive, turned into a sea death as sleepiness of all three youths makes the road and horizon fade into soft waves, the crash just a bang, no messiness. This whole Simon passage, a model of its kind, is of a sublime simplicity and physicality, delivering nothing but a sense of youth, health, and impermanence. The only further development of Simon is equally physical: to seduce Juliette at first meeting, he successfully races her rail car with his bike, leaps over his bike in a move I've never seen, climbs up breathless to the platform, and they kiss.

Later, the film gets equally intimate in a lower key in following Claire as she interacts with her concerned sons Maxime (Oldfield) and Sam (Cholbi) and attends a piano concert by her beautiful protégée and former lover Anne Guérande (actress and pianist Alice Taglioni). She also meets with her cardiologist, who will perform the transplant; Drs. Rémige and Rémol will remove Simon's heart. Claire's scenes require a refocusing effort from the audeince after the intensity of the earlier passages, all of them at a high pitch further heightened by Alexandre Desplat's piano-based score. The presence of the well-known French movie composer is a sign of the glossier production, but Thomas Marchand, the editor, whose presence is more essential, was present on the director's first two films. Claire's sequences apparently add to a barely outlined character in the novel, and they're still relatively flat after the vivacity and invention of Simon's sequences and the high pitched emotions of his parents' grieving.

A turning point in the film, and a key to its humanism, comes when Marianne and Vincent, still in great grief, come to accept the goodness of allowing their son to be an organ donor.

The still boyish Rahim, who gently elicits this decision, is a good choice for exuding human kindness, and the film's best moment and best evocation of the magic of the medical miracle this story is about comes when he carries out a ritual farewell to Simon in the operating room following the boy's parent's directives, and it's at this moment that this tasteful and economical film indulges in its one repeat sequence, Juliette's tearful face in the light of dawn and Simon's leap out her window: rhythmical repetition, a joining of the circle, death and life.

Still, for all this beauty, though onne may not miss the oddness of the director's debut Love Like Poison, one does miss a bit the wildness and emotional extremity of her sophomore effort, Suzanne, which also put Adèle Hanel on the map. What Réparer les vivants, heavily publicized in France and widely distributed there, does do, is show that Quillévéré is a directorial talent both recognized and worth continuing to follow. "Un feel good movie" is a French term, which critics have applied, and this does what one of those should: it leaves you feeling good.

Réparer les vivants/Heal the LIving, 105 mins., debuted at Venice Sept. 2016, also showing at Toronto and London. French theatrical release bega 1 Nov. 2016. Screened for this review at UGC Danton, Paris, 1 Nov. 2016.

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


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