Depending on whom you ask, French cinema either remains the art house’s crme de la crme or is currently coasting on past glories. Advocates will point to several filmmakers consistently churning out vital, vibrant work (je t’aime, Claire Denis and Arnaud Desplechin). Others will mention the weak recent entries of Gallic graybeards like Resnais and Rivette, and the overall shrugworthiness of Lincoln Center’s past few “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema” programs. It’s no surprise that Danile Thompson’s ho-hum ensemble piece about a Parisian dinner party played that minifest in 2009; the movie’s pseudo-profundities would seem cloyingly reassuring to the bourgie Upper West Siders who often flock to the series. At the very least, this mush pot reminds us that countries other than ours also produce melodramatic mediocrities.
It also, however, gives work to great French actors: A who’s who of notable names—among them Karin Viard, Patrick Bruel, Marina Hands, Emmanuelle Seigner, the estimable Patrick Chesnais—play friends and relatives who convene for an evening of food, drink and middle-class bitching. As the story flips between that game-changing night and a year later, the cast does their best to make us marvel at the soiree’s reverberations (someone’s now paraplegic! also, new haircuts!), but even the film’s galaxy of stars can’t keep this black hole of c’est la vie soap-operatics from collapsing upon itself.—David Fear
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