Not Here to Be Loved (15)
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Time Out says
Thu Oct 19 2006It would be a shame if writer-director Stephane Brizé’s delightful May-to-September romance is written off as one solely for cinéastes, French cinema devotees and the so-called ‘grey’ demographic. Patiently, discreetly, unfashionably, the film introduces us to the world of an unremarkable, buttoned-up bourgeois, the slightly-greying Monsieur Delsart, a 50-year-old bailiff ‘with a slight coronary deficiency’, played, in a remarkable (and César-nominated) performance of uningratiating hang-dog containment, by Patrick Chesnais.
Just as Delsart’s portrayal is artfully shaded – he shows the unintentional brusqueness of those abstractly disappointed by life, mixed with a self-protective stoicism and suggestions of an innate but stifled sensitivity – so is the film. One of Brizé’s precocious acomplishments is how confidently and swiftly he establishes his sweetly balanced tone – and through it a worldview – that artfully alternates between light and dark, melancholy and droll humour. Delsart’s silent double-take at the latest inanity of his plant-loving assistant is very funny; but also you wonder at what emotional cost comes that very forebearance as he deals, in a quietly shocking scene at an old people’s home, with the embittered and violently irascible outbursts of his father (Georges Wilson, outstanding).
This ability to reinvigorate the commonplace, even the cliché, extends to the use of the film’s perhaps over-familiar central metaphor, the tango. It’s at dance lessons across the road – filmed with a non-derisory amusement that a young Milos Forman would envy – that Delsart meets betrothed thirtysomething school councillor Françoise, prompting inconvenient and unexpected passions. But by underplaying its suggestive themes of slow seduction, and the tantalising friction between formality and sensuality, these partly improvised scenes become engagingly wistful, sensuous and moving. Arguably, Brizé over-eggs the pudding by revealing Delsart’s dowdy secretary’s hidden passion, and making Françoise’s writer fiancé a self-obsessed arsehole, but that doesn’t negate the film’s essential gifts, the time and value it gives to ‘the small things’ and its gentle, funny-sad, entreaty to seize the day. A very impressive debut and one of the best French films of the year.
Author: Wally Hammond
Fri Jun 8 2007