The Ninth Annual Cinéfranco Film Festival
Combien tu m'aimes? (How Much Do You Love Me?)
Directed by Bertrand Blier
Combien tu m'aimes? revolves around the unlikely relationship that forms between grizzled prostitute Daniela (Monica Bellucci) and john Francois (Bernard Campan). Francois claims that he's just won a very large sum in the lottery and essentially wants Daniela to live with him until the money runs out. Daniela, of course, agrees, though it's not long before her vicious pimp (played by Gerard Depardieu) arrives on the scene demanding his cut of the cash. Combien tu m'aimes? has been written and directed by Bertrand Blier, a 67-year-old veteran of the film industry with almost two dozen credits to his name. Though Blier is successful in infusing the movie with a distinctly off-kilter sort of vibe, the filmmaker proves to be completely and totally inept in terms of offering up any interesting characters or a plot worth following. With its bizarre musical digressions and overall tone of absurdness, Combien tu m'aimes? plays out like a long, thoroughly interminable inside joke. Bertrand's penchant for interrupting the story's flow with annoyingly over-the-top, strangely melodramatic interludes certainly doesn't help matters, nor does the inclusion of several irritating and extraordinarily quirky supporting characters. Combien tu m'aimes? is nothing short of a complete disaster, and one can't help but wonder just how Bertrand convinced veterans Bellucci and Depardieu to appear in this mess.
no stars out of
De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté (The Beat That My Heart Skipped)
Based on James Toback's 1978 directorial debut Fingers, De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté follows a young thug named Thomas (Romain Duris) as he attempts to reconcile his desire to become a concert pianist with the harsh (and often brutal) reality of his day-to-day life. Director Jacques Audiard infuses De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté with a gritty and plotless vibe that admittedly suits the material, but effectively prevents the viewer from becoming completely involved in the film's storyline. If not for Duris' amazing, thoroughly captivating performance, it's clear that De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté would not come off nearly as well as it ultimately does. And while there are elements within Audiard and Tonino Benacquista's screenplay that manage to hold the viewer's interest - most involving Thomas' efforts to re-learn the piano - the film is generally undone by a serious case of overlength and Audiard's reluctance to allow the viewer into Thomas' head (ie what makes this guy tick?)
Les mots bleus (Some Kind of Blue)
Well-intentioned but utterly tedious, Les mots bleus details the fractured relationship between the mentally-unbalanced Clara (Sylvie Testud) and her mute daughter, Anna (played by Camille Gauthier). Though there's nothing physically wrong with Anna - she's not hard of hearing and presumably has full control over her vocal cords - the young girl has never spoken a word (no thanks to her mother, who seems to encourage her daughter to keep quiet). After Clara signs Anna up for classes at a school for the deaf, she finds herself drawn to a compassionate teacher named Vincent (Sergi Lopez). Director Alain Corneau takes his time in allowing the story to unfold, but Les mots bleus' impact is ultimately dulled by the unreasonably slow-pace with which Corneau has imbued the film. There's virtually nothing propelling the narrative forward aside from Clara and Anna's antics, and because both characters remain strangely underdeveloped, it's exceedingly difficult for the viewer to actually care about any of their many problems. The film's few positive attributes - including a trio of admittedly superb performances and an overall vibe of realism - are negated by the oppressively dull and thoroughly interminable atmosphere, which often seems as though it's going to lead up to some big revelation but never does.