At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
The Alliance Française shows its series of French films in a small room in their building at 138 Charoen Prathet Road. The building is directly opposite Wat Chaimongkhon, near the Chedi Hotel. Tell your taxi "Samakhom Frangset" and/or "Wat Chaimongkhon."A contribution of 30 baht is requested; you pay outside at the information desk of the Alliance Française proper.
At Alliance Française on Friday, February 12, 8 pm: Je ne suis pas là pour être aimé / Not Here to Be Loved (2005) by Stéphane Brizé – 93 mins – France, Drama/ Romance. English subtitles.
With Patrick Chesnais, Anne Consigny, Raymond Pellegrin.
Fifty-year-old Jean-Claude Delsart, worn out by his police work, gave up on the idea of life offering any sweet surprises some time ago. But he hadn't counted on just what would happen when he finally got up the nerve to learn the tango...
– Alliance description
Neil Young’s Film Lounge: Still waters run persuasively deep in Not Here to Be Loved, a startlingly dry - and ineffably "French" - comedy/romance in which almost every word, gesture, and shot is expertly weighted for maximum effect. The story of an unlikely relationship which blossoms between divorced, Prufrock-ish, 50-year-old bailiff Jean-Claude (suitably hangdog Patrick Chesnais) and Francoise (spirited Anne Consigny), the significantly younger woman he meets at a tango class - despite the latter's impending marriage to pudgy would-be novelist Thierry (Lionel Abelanski) - may be, if anything, a little too restrained, slow-burning, and subtle for some. Patient (older?) viewers, however, will find many rewards in this deliciously poised, impeccably-observed fable of lonely lives redeemed by the possibility of a second chance.
DVD Times: Running the family law firm as a bailiff, Jean-Claude Delsart’s work sees him hand out court orders and carry out evictions and repossessions on a daily basis. It’s not a fun job, but somebody has to do it and Delsart (Patrick Chesnais) has the emotional detachment necessary not to get too personally involved in the unpleasant nature of his work. The job is mildly stressful however and although he’s not in bad health, at the age of 50 he’s not getting any younger either. His doctor advises against taking up tennis again – as a child Jean-Claude was an accomplished tennis player – a little light exercise would be good, but nothing too energetic or over-exciting. The dance-class that Delsart can see from his office window gives him an idea – he’ll learn how to dance the tango. There he meets Françoise (Anne Consigny), a young woman who becomes his dancing partner, and through the intimacy of the dance, she manages to get closer to a man who has closed himself off from all emotions. There is only one problem, Françoise is engaged and is taking the classes in preparation for her wedding.
“Nothing too energetic or over-exciting” also kind of sums up Not Here To Be Loved (Je ne suis pas là pour être aimé). It’s one of those “time of life” films that are financed by French cable television channels to ultimately fit nicely into a safe evening TV slot for a certain mature type of audience. It’s not hard for this audience to identify with normal people, living unglamorous lives in boring dead-end jobs, seeking to regain the little spark that will get them through a difficult stage in their lives and marriages. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this type of film - it’s all about what you bring to it. And here, everything is as readable and predictable as the title would lead you to believe. The situation and characterization is more than a little contrived – an aging, irascible and emotionally cut-off single man with no outlook on life other than his regular weekend visit to his cantankerous father (a superb Georges Wilson) at an old people’s home, meets a younger woman who, about to be married, is uncertain about the direction in which her life is going. The main problem here is that it fails to convincingly establish this relationship between the faded older man with no real prospects and a much younger woman.
The brief verbal exchanges between Jean-Claude and Françoise and shorthand attempts to depict their situation are woefully inadequate and heavily clichéd, but like other films where a convincing common ground has failed to be adequately established in the thin characterization, the director hopes he can wing it through a subtle evocation of mood and sentiment. Where the words fail the music, subtle lighting, and awkwardness of their fledgling steps together should cast their spell upon the viewer. Uncertain and unhappy with their current positions, but unable to articulate it - or perhaps even being unaware of it - it’s in following the steps of the tango, in letting themselves go and not thinking too hard that they should rediscover the natural rhythm and passion that is missing from their lives. In many ways however, Not Here To Be Loved also slips into a familiar step that has been danced a number of times already (how often, for example, must we see a scene of an employee giving it straight to his boss, only for it to be revealed that he is speaking to an empty chair?), and by rather more skilled and adept practitioners of the relationship tango than Stéphane Brizé.
BBC Movies, Tom Dawson: What's moving here is the fact that the characters find it so difficult to express their feelings of love, whether to partners or relatives. Brize skillfully uses the mournful tango score to convey their unspoken yearnings, and the cramped, sometimes Spartan interiors reinforce the theme of entrapment. Although the prevailing mood is melancholic, there's also a welcome vein of dry humor at work here, much of it provided by the poker-faced Chesnais. And the ending suggests that Jean-Claude and Francoise may at last have freed themselves from some of the emotional shackles imposed on them by their respective families.
At Alliance Française on Friday, February 19, 8 pm: Vipère au poing / Viper in the Fist (2004) by Philippe de Broca – 100 mins – France/ UK, Drama. English subtitles.
With Catherine Frot, Jules Sitruk, Jacques Villeret.
In 1922, after the paternal grandmother who was looking after them died, the young boy and his brother Ferdinand found their parents, who’d returned from China, once again. But the relationship with their mother rapidly becomes a nightmare. She’s quick to lash out at the two children, mistreat and abuse them.
– Alliance description
Reel Film Reviews, David Nusair: Director Philippe de Broca reportedly intended for Vipère au poing to be the first part of a trilogy, though that'll never happen now (the filmmaker died in November 2004). It's a shame, really, given that the movie feels more like 100 minutes of set-up than anything else. The story revolves around two brothers in the '20s, whose comfortable lives are obliterated by the arrival of their strict, hateful mother (played by Catherine Frot). And that's essentially the first hour of Vipère au poing; there's no storyline here, just sequence after sequence of the boys being terrorized (resulting in an intriguing subplot revolving around the youngest son's efforts to knock off not-so-dear old mom). The film does improve slightly as it progresses, particularly following the departure of Frot's character. But in the end, despite some fine acting and an ambiance that feels authentic, the film just isn't engaging - though it seems clear that future installments would've likely improved this one in retrospect (i.e. once the entire story had been told).
At Alliance Française on Friday, February 26, 8 pm: Voisins, voisines (2005) by Malik Chibane – 90 mins – France, Comedy. English subtitles.
With Anémone, Jackie Berroyer, Frédéric Diefenthal.
A rapper searching for inspiration in a Paris suburb at "la Résidence Mozart". He has three days to write his songs for his record company...
– Alliance description
FrenchCulture.org: Mixing a hip-hop sound-track with gritty and at times surrealistic images, Voisins, Voisines explores the multi-ethnic world of the French banlieues, the disadvantaged urban spaces that gained world media attention during the riots of 2005. Director Malik Chibane, the son of Algerian immigrants, reveals in these seemingly dead-end spaces human depth and global resonance that transcend social and ethnic divides.