AFTER LOVE ****
You can’t get more contrasted than Dover and Calais, or an English wife and a French mistress who have shared one man whom they both loved deeply. But as often in life, the facts are far deeper than the surface appearance. For here it’s less about infidelity and more about the view of two women who had no real idea of each other until their mutual man died unexpectedly.
This delicate, poignant film mainly concerns the English wife who long ago converted to Islam for her Pakistani husband, out of both love and conviction. When her husband suddenly dies, she finds out about a relationship that he had across the channel. And she feels she must go across to find out why and how all this has come to pass.
It is this tangled yet gentle story that first-time feature director Aleem Khan has woven with incredible depth and understanding of women’s feelings, and which was shown this past summer at Cannes’ “Semaine de la Critique”.
The sweet-faced TV actress Joanna Scanlan plays the bewildered English wife with both gravitas and fragility, as she manages accidentally to penetrate the home of the French woman and her son. The premise is complicated and completely human, all about the double lives that the characters have assumed, but finally more about love than jealousy or hatred. This touching, unforgettable film by the English/Pakistani Aleem Khan reveals a promising talent.
CETTE MUSIQUE NE JOUE POUR PERSONNE **** (vo French)
Speaking of complicated…this quirky, hilarious film is also about double lives – tough guys who have poetic souls and yearn for romance. A tightly-knit group of dubious characters who each have their own hidden dreams and foibles is presented to us in various droll situations that give us an inkling of their delicate temperaments, despite their rough exteriors.
The leader of the pack (François Damiens) has fallen for a young cashier in a supermarket and keeps writing poems for her, having them delivered to her by his henchman, played by Ramzy Bedia. Two other clueless toughies (a super pairing of Joey Starr and Bouli Lanners) try all sorts of arm-twisting to convince some high school kids to come to their niece’s 18th birthday. Vanessa Paradis’ character yearns to portray Simone de Beauvoir in a farcical theater piece, while a shy admirer keeps eliminating her co-stars until he gets to play Sartre.
This film by Samuel Benchetrit is a hoot with heart and should not be missed if you appreciate comedy, an intelligent script, brilliant deadpan ensemble acting and above all, love amidst chaos.
TOUT S’EST BIEN PASSÉ *** (vo French)
The prolific François Ozon is one of France’s foremost directors and screenwriters, coming out almost yearly since the late 1990s with an array of varied scenarios – SOUS LE SABLE, 8 FEMMES, POTICHE, FRANTZ, GRACE A DIEU – all connected by a sense of intelligence and an innate elegance.
With this film he has touched upon a subject still anathema in many countries – euthanasia.
It’s actually an intimate portrait involving mainly the father (a brilliant André Dussolier), who has had a severe stroke, and his favorite daughter, played by a very convincing Sophie Marceau, who grows ever lovelier with age. It’s intimate, for he asks her to help him die.
This could have been a depressing film but the script and especially Dussolier’s disarmingly droll characterisation of an incorrigible personality give it a breath of fresh air. And where do they look for help in such a situation but to our own Switzerland. There is family, there is the torment of a daughter coming to terms with such a request, and there is the revelation of the actual process, done with typical Ozon discretion.
There is also a cameo by one of Rainer Fassbinder’s favorite actresses, a beautifully ageing Hanna Schygulla, as the lady from Switzerland. Fassbinder was a great influence on Ozon’s early career.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.