Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2020 5:12 pm 
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SAFY NOBBOU: WHO YOU THINK I AM/CELLE QUE VOUS CROYEZ (2019) - RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA

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JULIETTE BINOCHE AND FRANçOIS CIVIL IN CELLE QUE VOYS CROYEZ


Having all the endings you want

Who You Think I Am, which stars Juliette Binoche, is a glossy female fantasy for women of a certain age. It's perhaps an improvement over Safy Nobbou's beautiful but toothless 2016 [url="http://www.filmleaf.net/showthread.php?4282-Rendez-Vouz-with-French-Cinema-2017&p=35329#post35329"]In the Forests of Siberia[/url] (R-V 2017). (Again Nobbou adapts a novel, this time by Camille Laurens .) It has tension and emotion to spare. But that tension and emotion is a bit artificial, a thing of the woman's magazine story. It's remote from the full-throated lustiness of Claire Denis' recent Juliette Binoche vehicle Let the Sunshine In/Un beau soleil intérieur, with its life-affirming defiance of aging and sexual engagement with men of all sizes, ages, and weight classes from Nicolas Duchavelle to Gérard Depardieu, Binoche this time is involved in unhealthy vicarious fantasy life via social media. The idea that réseaux sociaux can lead to dangerous and disappointing relationships seems a bit retro: we became aware of that danger twenty-five years ago. Have the French just discovered it?

Claire (Binoche) is a university lecturer, a glamorous, show-offy teacher of literature or something, who however has an embarrassing memory lapse during one of her lectures. She's fifty. And she was dumped by her husband and left with her two cute boys for a younger women. She's gotten a young lover, Ludovic (Guillaume Gouix), but he's just dumped her. So she drifts into a self-created fake Facebook profile as a very young, very beautiful blonde women named Clara who starts a Facebook chat with another young and bearded even cuter hunk, Alex (François Civil). Does she know he's Ludo's roommate? Is that just a weird coincidence? The contrivances went too fast for me and there were too many of him.

Amp up the beauty and the glamor on both sides, and the speed of the risk-taking. Or course all this can work because Binoche is beautiful, but clearly aging: she's now 56. We are asked to believe that Alex even thinks her voice (she talks to him eventually on a special cell phone for this purpose only) sounds younger than "Clara's" supposed 24 years.

The phone sex goes all the way and, after all, isn't masturbation sexier in film than the real thing - because it's all about imagination? Eventually Claire has taken Clara so far so successfully that Alex is madly in love with her and she must call a halt to it. Twists and turns follow.

Let us add that while the device of a psychiatrist as a mediator, sounding board, and moral barometer for what Claire is doing is artificial and obvious at best, again this film is class all the way because someone of the caliber of Nicole Garcia has been enlisted for the job of playing the shrink. She provides complexity without even saying anything.

Celle que vous croyez has a kind of classic voyeuristic moment, when the voyeur, Claire, is able to go right up to Alex and drink in his young macho hunkiness, because of course he doesn't know what she looks like. Thus ends a meeting she has agreed to, as Clara, but cannot follow through on. The story then has it both ways, the novel playing twist games, by having Claire compose a manuscript that she submits to Dr. Catherine Bormans (Garcia) in which she retells the story of her deception of Alex with a happy ending - and then Claire meets up with Ludo and the "real" story's sad ending is reversed and made happy too - but Claire is still a lonely lady (with two hyper-cute young sons). Tell me this isn't old fashioned women's fiction.

One finishes watching this film, I suppose, either entranced, if one has bought into its fantasies (I heard one viewer at the end admiring the "complexity" of the plotting), or mildly disgusted, as I was, feeling I'd been led into an elaborate, sordid game, that is made to look somehow glamorous because it's a French film with French stars and the glossy French cinema industry behind it.

Who You Think I Am/Celle que vou croyez, 101 mins., had its French theatrical release Feb. 27, 2019. The AlloCiné press rating 3.4 (68%). A Cohen Media release in the US.

Rendez-Vpus with French Cinema:
Friday, March 6, 6:00pm (Q&A with Safy Nebbou and Juliette Binoche)
Monday, March 9, 2:00pm

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


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