Opening 3 Jan 2008
Alice d’Abanville (Charlotte Rampling) was an aspiring actress and Louis Ruinard (Jean Rochefort) was a successful director, and together they were the couple of the year. Their separation was sudden and bitter. Thirty years later, Alice is a successful Shakespearean actress in a London theater. She is married to a member of the British aristocracy and has a grown son, Paul. Louis, still a bachelor ladies’ man, is in London to film a comedy. The British take the opportunity to award him a prize for his life’s work, to be presented by Alice, and so they are destined to meet again.
Antoine de Caunes, writer and director with an affinity for all things British, filmed in London. In this comedy there are many unflattering comments about people (“Swans sing before they die; some people should die before they sing.”), as well as the film industry, but one quote sums it up: “It’s a film which people want to see, which isn’t very French.” Contrary to most French films, I actually understood the interaction and could appreciate the excellent actors, especially Rampling in only her second comedy in a long career. The supporting actors are wonderful: Isabelle Nanty as an almost dwarf-sized manager of Louis, Simon Kurz as the gay butler Randall, James Thiérrée as the son who is unaware of his true paternity, and Ian Richardson whose name says it all: Lord Evelyn Gaylord. Sometimes this slapstick comedy stretches the imagination (Winston the dog eats Viagra) or becomes a cliché (cutting roses in an English garden). The best scenes are the vitriolic fights between Louis and Alice as they work through past memories. It is fast-paced and begins and ends with black and white photos a la Helmut Newton. The film opens in an auction house where Newton’s real photograph of the real, younger, Charlotte Rampling is for sale. Anyone over 40 will enjoy this light spoof on acting, high society, and sex between eternally young seniors. The singer Boy George makes a cameo appearance and he isn’t much of a “boy” any more either. The Germans will dub this film, which will be too bad. I saw it in the original French-English version with German subtitles, and the ping-pong of the French and the English contributed to the humor. (Becky Tan)