Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Francois, Charlotte et Melvil sur la plage

A brace of sombre films by Francois Ozon, featuring the beach and meditations on mortality....
UNDER THE SAND (SOUS LE SABLE) When her husband goes missing at the beach, a female professor begins to mentally disintegrate as her denial of his disappearance becomes delusional, as the brief synopsis puts it. This 2000 French film by Francois Ozon is notable for a stunning performance from Charlotte Rampling as Marie who has to adjust her life after her husband presumably drowns. She goes into denial and continues as though he is still there but gradually it all becomes too much. As she cannot accept his death she cannot access his funds and her friends, including a nicely mature Alexandra Stewart worry about her. What are her motives for getting involved with another man (Jacques Nolot) whom she is toying with? We see the husband (Bruno Cremer) as she imagines he is there with her – but tellingly at the beach we also see his expression before he goes into the sea.

His aged mother taunts Marie that her son has faked his death to get away from her as he was bored, or even committed suicide. Finally, a body is found – will Marie be able to accept that is her husband or does she continue in denial? Is it in fact her husband? There is that powerful scene at the morgue. The overweight husband does seem older and tired and weary in the early scenes as the couple head to their holiday home. It is splendidly directed by Ozon who focuses tightly on his star, but one does begin to get exasperated by Marie's behaviour by the end. It is a meditation on aging, loss, mourning, which would seem the domain of a more senior filmmaker [Ozon was 35 when directing this], but he has accomplished a thoughtful, serious, and compelling movie that we can all identify with, even if we do not share the extent of Marie's mourning process.

TIME TO LEAVE (LE TEMPS QUI RESTE) – Nice that Ozon’s new film POTICHE with Deneuve and Depardieu is an international hit. I had been putting off watching this, his 2005 more sombre drama as I imagined it might be too harrowing. Romain (Melvil Poupaud) a gay fashion photographer (who seems to have it all) is given a death sentence by his doctor – he has terminal cancer. He becomes reclusive as he begins to give up the world and people close to him, alienating himself from his lover, sister and parents. The only person he tells is his grand-mother (Jeanne Moreau, marvellous as ever) as she will be dead soon too. It is not harrowing at all but rather affecting at times, and also nicely compact at 75 minutes. Improbably, he is asked to impregnate a waitress he chats to whose sterile husband he quite fancies, which he at first refuses, but later all three get together.

Poupaud must have seriously lost weight by the final scene at the beach as the solitary man enjoys himself, with visions of his childhood past – one shocking moment has him throwing his ringing phone into a trashcan as he leaves the world behind him. The film’s pared down style is similar to his previous UNDER THE SAND and is a meditation on what it means to find out you only have a short time left to live. Melvil Poupaud carries the film beautifully and gives a performance that is both affecting and un-selfpitying, morphing from a fit, athletic young man to an emaciated invalid. It is indeed affecting as the sun goes down and people start to leave the beach... Francois Ozon continues to be one of the more interesting (and openly gay) directors around. I must return to that boxset of his earlier films: 8 FEMMES, 5 X 2 and SWIMMING POOL with Rampling again, and I also must watch that BFI dvd of his earlier shorts, REGARDE LA MER. It is good to see POTICHE is popular, one wonders what he will deliver next?
Soon: a new Andre Techine boxset, Assayas' SUMMER HOURS, several Catherine Deneuve and Belmondo titles and back to Chabrol and Melville, and summer repeats of Demy and Varda, and finally Truffaut's FINALLY SUNDAY, and Charlotte again HEADING SOUTH.

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