Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2020 10:35 pm 
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Depression meets rom-com in Klapisch's Paris-set new film

This film begins with a device that's at once neat and self-defeating: it continually oscillates between two lonely young people in Paris, a guy and a girl, with alienating jobs and resulting psychological issues who live next door and whose lives are in all ways parallel and depicted that way, but who don't come together or even notice each other till near the end. One can play with the parallelisms cinematically with shifts and cross-cutting, but where are you going to find depth working this timeline? The bulk of the film might almost be better as an abstract, wordless study, fifteen or twenty good minutes long. But we're dragged along for 110. This is one of Klapisch's least appealing movies. But given his innate curiosity and warmth, it has moments.

As Nicolas Schaller writes in Le Nouvel Observateur this is a director always chasing the zeitgeist who's made his "most lackluster" film in search of its anomie. Klapisch (Schaller goes on) has always oscillated between "truths and clichés," "poetic apercus and ad slogans," the "profoundly ordinary and the no-big-deal." But luckily, he adds, "there are the actors." They are known and they are attractive. But by definition things drag on for ages before they "come together." We are miles away from the ebullience of L'Auberge espagnole and Russian Dolls.

Klapisch has recently directed a couple of episodes of the popular Netflix series "Call My Agent" ("Dix pour cent") and he's recruited a couple of alumni for key roles, new French movie it boy François Civil as the depressed and insomniac warehouse worker Rémy Pelletier, and Camille Cotin (Andréa Martel in the show) as the shrink whom the similarly sad and listless young woman cancer researcher, Mélanie Brunet (Ana Girardot), is sent to by her doctor to consult. Rémy (an initially odd-seeming role for the usually affable and energetic Civil), who has a panic attack on the Métro and collapses after an unsuccessful rock climbing practice session, is sent to a shrink too, a chilly one who meets patients in what looks like a dirty hallway. He's played by the triumphantly glum François Berléand. Camille Cottin's office is decorative and cozy, with a Freud-style couch, no less. The contrast is playful given the other parallelisms and the shrink sessions provide background on the separated pair's lives and personalities, his survival guilt, her pain from the early departure of her father.

Anyway, Mélanie and Rémy are being emotionally prepared, perhaps cleansed, for their getting together, which the modern generation's dependence on electronic interfaces like Facebook and Tinder do nothing to advance. This point, and the clichés about the impersonal nature of city life, show Klapisch being a bore. As the anonymousVariety critic writes, this director's "notions of technology dependency and urban malaise aren’t new or insightful anymore."

Klapisch isn't wrong in suggesting that the nearby Middle Eastern market where both shop, with its tightly packed offerings and playfully combative but efficient Arab family team, could be a learning place and neighborhood contact point. The two live in a low-rent district near the Gare du Nord, and this provides chilly urban landscapes that provide welcome respite from conventional images of the City of Light.

It's made clear that both characters have warmth to give. Mélanie cuddles with her girlfriends who introduce her to social media hookup possibilities. Rémy finds only incomprehension with his family in the French alps, but he's adorable playing with a cuddly white kitten foisted on him by a neighbor. Little by little there are hints. He smells her cigarette smoke, then hears her singing along with a song in the tub. And then when their shrinks have shaped them up, in the last ten minutes: Kompa class. Et voilà! Meet cute. FIN.

Someone, Somewhere/Deux moi ("Two Me's), 110 mins., debuted Aug. 2019, Angoulême. It opened in multiple countries Sept. 2019-Mar. 2020. French release 11 Sept. , AlloCiné press rating 3.7 (74%). A Distrib Films release. The Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center was ended early due to the COVID-19 pandemic before I could see it, but it is now available as pay-for-view via Meetropolitan Virtual Theaters (Apr. 27, 2020).

Scheduled Rendez-Vous showings were:
Monday, March 9, 9:00pm (originally to include a Q&A with Cédric Klapisch)
Saturday, March 14, 6:30pm

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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