Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 4:24 am 
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Meandering mysteries

It will take you much of Nicole Garcia's meandering seventh film as a director to find out what the French title "Un beau dimanche" ("A beautiful Sunday") fully means. The pleasure of Garcia's narrative is that it's so devious, and takes us deep into the background of its main character. He's Baptiste Cambière (Pierre Rochefort, son of Nicole Garcia and the venerable star Jean Rochefort), a clearly brilliant, but mysterious and evidently troubled young man who works as a rambling grade school substitute teacher, who travels around France, unwilling to stay on at any one school more than a season. Baptiste clearly finds a cord of sympathy with Mathias (Mathias Brezot), a boy who's very bright in math but unmotivated. School ends, and Mathias' father forgets to come and pick him up. Baptiste gives him a ride to his father, who has forgotten it's his weekend to have the boy. It's the Whitsun Monday long holiday and Baptiste has nowhere to go, so he offers to take Mathias. One thing leads to another, and the next day he's driven to the beach where Mathias' mother Sandra (Louise Bourgoin) works managing a cafe kitchen.

By now Mathias, whos been neglected by both parents, has bonded with Baptiste and doesn't want him to go. And next it's Baptiste's turn to bond with Sandra. Her meanderings have been as wild and dangerous in their way as Baptiste's, about which we learn when, to save her from some gangsterish creditors she owes €50,000 to, Baptiste for the first time in years goes, with her and her son, to visit his wealthy family.

Going Away gradually reveals Baptiste's through his family members and flashbacks and what Sandra learns. A lot comes from his sister Emmanuelle Cambière (Déborah François) and more from his mother, Liliane (Dominique Sanda). Sanda is an icon, like Michel Lonsdale, who conveys a sense of history -- cinema history -- in her very being. There is something all-knowing, wise, and also stultifying in Liliane's declarations. This aristocratic family considers the rules it lives by immutable. But it is not Baptiste's intention to live by them.

As Baptiste Cambière, Pierre Rochefort is a fascinating character, monklike, gifted, and strange, and yes, also aristocratic; as well as gifted with remarkable explosive strength. (He has the quality of a Superman, impaired, but with an impairment leading possibly to exceptional powers.) Baptiste has the attraction of the dangerous and damaged. For some, Garcia's film will seem nonchalant and inconsequential, but for those who will look and think, it has some of the same richness of larger implications and complex questions of money, inheritance, class, and family that come up in Arnaud des Pallières' resonant, strange, unique film Adieu.

Going Away/Un beau dimanche, 91 mins., debuted at Toronto Sept 2013 and opened in France 5 Feb. 2014. It was screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center 2-16 Mar. 2014 film series Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. Showings:
Friday, March 7, 6:00pm – IFC; Monday, March 10, 4:00pm – EBM; Saturday, March 15, 9:30pm - WRT

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