Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2023 7:10 pm 
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Portrait of a handful on the way out

François Ozon's prolific output is on the lightweight side, but its level of seriousness may vary. Look at his campy recent Peter von Kant, this year, and his gaudy, pretty-boy adaptation of a melodramatic YA novel in 2020, Summer of 85.. But then consider the surprisingly significant 2018 By the Grace of God, about French pedophile priests and the toll their abuse takes on men's lives. Everything Went Fine is pretty serious too, but it's got it's funny moments. It's about the assisted suicide of an 85-year-old man who has had a fairly serious stroke, called an "AVC," accident vasculaire cérébral in French, who is stuck in a wheelchair, and he's painfully dissatisfied with his life the way it is now. He's a stubborn, difficult, rather rich and successful man used to having his way, who's also gay, though his two grown daughters play a large part. In this story it's Emmanuèle Bernheim (excellently played by Sophie Marceau), the daughter he pressed into playing the larger part, someone Ozon knew, also a successful novelist, who wrote the book from which the film is adapted. It's a portrait of this obnoxious, selfish, yet somehow partly lovable man. The movie is as much about this quirky character as it is about the many social, psychological, legal and moral issues involved.

This man, André Bernheim, is played by the great André Dusollier. The film is a collaboration between Ozon and Dusollier, who appears transformed with makeup, prostetics, and s loud, feeble-whiny voice and is unrecognizable. At first, anyway; the night before he goes to Bern to be offed by the special agency there when he has a celebratory dinner at the Restaurant Voltaire, you kind of know it's Dusollier.

Why play such a part? Dusollier has made clear that it was a juicy role he welcomed. He camps it up a bit: his high-pitched hammyness is borderline homophobic - but he can't ever be anything but wonderful and this man comes richly to life, his misery, his egotism, his honesty, his passion: it all comes out. One wouldn't want to change anything, and he has said Ozon always brought out the funny moments. A suicide puts those near to the person through a horrible experience, but there4 is nothing maudlin here at all. I came to this film expecting a grim duty, perhaps, and wound up involving in the suspense and drama of the story.

And, icing on the cake (lightly applied) there is, if only briefly seen, the iconic Charlotte Rampling as his stone-faced, still beautiful wife who has been depressed forever and had Parkinson's for a decade. She is too ill herself to be involved much. More icing: Hanna Schygulla (who's also in Peter van Kamp) as "La dame suisse," the Swiss lady who comes to Paris to confer about arrangements and conducts the proceedure and calls to report on it. It's her last words, "Tout c'est bien passé," It all went well, that end the film.

My own father was not gay (or Jewish) but he too was peevish, stubborn, outwardly cowardly, and a sensualist and Dusollier's André Bernheim reminded me of him after his stroke, though I don't think his beliefs would have allowed him to consider assisted suicide, not possible where he lived anyway. The voice, melodramatic as it seems, reminded me of my father in his latter days: it's that good. It is a strange pleasure to watch Dusollier as Bernheim. You sort of wonder what he will do next. You sympathize with his disappointment but not with the selfishness. You may understand, if incompletely, his unstable relationship with the semi-rejected, disliked former lover Gérard (Grégory Gadebois), whom the daughters Emmanuèle and Pascale (Géraldine Pailhas) call "Grosse-Merde," Shithead, and the way he favors males, his Voltaire waiter Thierry, his musical grandson Raphael, Emmanuelle's husband Serge (Éric Caravaca), even thinks the ambulance drivers are "cute."

It's a feast of acting by Dusollier, even though Emmanuèle Bernheim has not provided a detailed portrait of her father's life otherwise. At one point André says privately to Pascale not to say so now, but all this would make something good for Emmanuele to write about, and that's what she's writing about, "all this," the tormenting experience of what ironically Pascale tells her is a dream come true, because when she was young her father was so mean to Emannuelle she wished him dead. Now she is able to bring it about. Voilà.

Everything Went Fine/Tout c'est bien passé, 113 mins., whose shoot was delayed four months due to the pandemic in 2020, debuted in Competition at Cannes, was shown Jul. 7, 2021 and opened in France Sept. 22. AlloCiné press rating 3.4 (68%). Numerous other festivals including Zurich, Vancouver, Busan, Vienna, Leiden, Stockholm, Taipei. It was shown in the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center Mar. 7, 2022. To be released in the US by Cohen Media Group.

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