Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel, 2017)

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Mr Sausage
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Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel, 2017)

#1 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Oct 01, 2018 6:26 am

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#2 Post by domino harvey » Mon Oct 01, 2018 12:23 pm

I didn’t care for Dupontel’s 9 mois ferme, but was glad to be vindicated here by my suspicion on the basis of his clear visual eye there that he could make a movie I would enjoy. That film’s biggest problem was that it was a comedy that, with the exception of one massively imaginative sequence, wasn’t funny. This isn’t a comedy (though there’s certainly a whimsical element throughout), so it has no such baggage. I’m not familiar with the source text, but I’m led to believe it was a popular recent novel in France and many were happy with its adaptation here. It certainly has the novelistic feel, with the wraparound framing story and epic sweeps of narrative time. As much as I enjoy a lot of the component parts here, especially Laurent Lafitte doing a feature-length impression of Billy Zane in Titanic (his perf is hilarious and his character expertly hatable), the real story here is the production design and visual flourish.

When I wrote up my initial thumbnail for this movie, I had to go back and edit out an excessive use of the word “visual,” because frankly that what keeps coming to mind for Dupontel’s film. For an actor-turned-director, Dupontel has an unexpectedly gifted instinct for where to put the camera and how to move it through his scenes. Production design here falls somewhere between Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Wes Anderson (if Wes Anderson directed a Tool music video). Based on what I’ve seen in these two Dupontel films, he loves the grotesque, which is usually a turn-off for me, but it serves his purposes well for this story and I’m not sure how else to tell a tale involving a man with his jaw blown off who descends into a kind of anonymous stupor of drugs while hiding behind a series of increasingly fascinating masks. The excesses of the direction lends itself to furthering the fable-like narrative, with its irises and literal storytelling frame giving it a modern fairy tale vibe. And yet the film is dark, adult, and disturbing in a way that most actual folk tales are but rarely seem once depicted on screen. In many ways this would be a perfect film for teenagers because it is not made for them (and, depending on your barometer, may not be appropriate for them) yet has a youthful playfulness about things that are not inherently jocular. I don’t think Dupontel’s film is for a second sincere in anything it depicts. I also think that’s to its credit.

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#3 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:00 pm

I have yet to receive my copy of Au revoir but have seen a few of Dupont's films beforehand. You are right to signal Jeunet as a stylistic kindred spirit particularly in the film ' Victim' but unlike Jeunet he shifts moods and aesthetic quite often within the narrative. He started as a stand up comedian and sometimes he does mug it up somewhat but does certainly have more than one string to his bow. Even as an actor in other's films his range is far from limited to the comedic. He might be recognisable to some as the fire extinguisher wielding killer in 'Irreversible' or In Audiard's Self Made Hero. I will try and get Au Revoir viewed and comment on soonest but it might be worth mentioning that the issue of the badly wounded soldiers of WW1 particularly the "Gueules cassées' as the facially disfigured became known is well ingrained within French cultural history. From the publication of vast photographic records and the involvement of sculptors and artist enrolled to create aesthetic and intricate masks. I am pretty sure that Cocteau was used in such a capacity. As a final note the film Chambre des Officiers (Officer's ward) deals directly with this in a sympathetic and sentimentally muted way.

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#4 Post by Fiery Angel » Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:22 pm

NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:00 pm
As a final note the film Chambre des Officiers (Officer's ward) deals directly with this in a sympathetic and sentimentally muted way.
A superb film that deserves more recognition...at least there's an English-friendly French Blu-ray.

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#5 Post by domino harvey » Mon Oct 01, 2018 3:57 pm

NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:00 pm
I will try and get Au Revoir viewed and comment on soonest but it might be worth mentioning that the issue of the badly wounded soldiers of WW1 particularly the "Gueules cassées' as the facially disfigured became known is well ingrained within French cultural history. From the publication of vast photographic records and the involvement of sculptors and artist enrolled to create aesthetic and intricate masks.
This process is shown in the film in some detail, but it's always interesting to hear how certain elements in a film connect to a larger cultural consciousness that a non-French viewer may lack. Chambre des Officiers is in my queue for the Cesars list already, I'll try to bump it up so I can compare its treatment of the issue. Also going to try to watch another Dupontel-directed film-- any recommendations?

And thanks for the tip on the Chambre Blu-ray, Fiery Angel, I missed that one when I was compiling resources for the Cesar list!

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#6 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Mon Oct 01, 2018 4:39 pm

Le Vilain is Dupontel at his most cartoonish in sleazy low-life mode with Catherine Fort as his mother!!! Bernie I haven't seen yet but seems to be of a slightly less burlesque register. Both are available on DVD with English subs at a reasonable price

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#7 Post by domino harvey » Tue Oct 02, 2018 6:51 pm

Watched two Dupontel-directed films, Bernie (1996) and Enfermés dehors (2006), and didn't like either, though one has a lot more problems than the other.

Bernie is an extended miscalculation in extreme violence and repugnance with no possible moral justification. Dupontel plays a mentally retarded former foundling who finally leaves the orphanage as an adult in search of the parents who gave him away. Dupontel reasons that they must have been kidnapped to stay away for so long. His journey to find them involves such “hilarious” antics as pressing a man for information by biting the head off his pet parakeet, chewing it up, and then spitting the beak out; looking up a garbage chute only to get a syringe chucked into his face; and finally a truly atrocious set piece, one as awful as any I’ve ever seen in any film, in which Dupontel and his dad, a hobo, take shovels to an entire bougie household. For the third time in the film up to this point, we’re treated to an innocent third party being beaten to death (or near death) as the maid is the first to receive numerous whacks with shovels and blood flies everywhere. Then the rest of the family gets their turn, capped with the young daughter being beaten to death, placed in a piano, and then raped by Dupontel’s dad, which we then hear via piano keys smashing in the background in the next scene. And would you believe this sequence is only maybe the third most violent scene of this piece of shit? As with all four of the films I’ve seen from Dupontel, his visual instincts are never in question, but good lord do they serve absolutely vile material that hides behind “black comedy” to be as prurient as possible. I watched these two films in reverse chronological order, and I don’t think I would have bothered to watch another Dupontel film if I hadn’t…

Enfermés dehors fares better, as it has a very Chaplin-ish set-up with a hobo finding a policeman’s outfit and using it to help out a woman whose child has been held hostage by her in-laws. As in Bernie, Dupontel plays a character dealing with significant mental deficiencies, and his efforts to police the slums results in him recruiting a group of local roustabouts to help him kidnap the man whom he thinks is the kidnapper of the woman’s baby, to much confusion and weirdness. This movie, like Dupontel’s later works, has a terrific kinetic energy, and there is an utterly bizarre running joke involving Dupontel repeatedly destroying a grocer’s bodega by flying into it, but it’s still not funny. I did like that Dupontel resolved the issue I have with Jerry Lewis movies (and to some extent even Chaplin), in that it never feels right for such an infantalized character to enter into an adult romantic relationship. Here the woman Dupontel helps is a former porn performer (and star of, among other titles, the implausibly named Let's Fuck Together, But Fuck Me First Again and Again With the Dog) who associates kissing with her former profession, so she draws the line at anything more intimate than hugs, which this man-boy happily accepts. It’s actually an oddly sweet beat in such a crass movie. The film showcases more of Dupontel's visual inventiveness in its set pieces, as when a group of billboard models comes to life and harasses Dupontel on one of his many glue sniffing trips, or the completely bonkers action scene that finds Dupontel holding onto the top of a bus and then participating in a series of cartoon-logic acts of bodily harm that are more peculiar than hilarious. The film ends by evoking another silent comedian, Harold Lloyd, and I admired the juvenile imagination on display here and elsewhere in the film (these physics-free physical comedy scenes remind me of the silly action scenarios I used to think up on the bus ride home as a middle schooler, which gives them a certain charm I guess), but fundamentally there is still a huge problem that plagues all of these comedies: they are not funny, at all.

I am glad to see Dupontel so effectively tackle drama with Au revoir là-haut, and hope he continues. I think his instincts and predilections would allow him to make a truly disturbing horror movie, or an inventively staged mainstream action movie, should some studio give him a larger budget. But someone keep him away from any more comedies, please.

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#8 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Wed Oct 03, 2018 3:03 am

Thanks for the warning shot across the bows regarding Bernie, which I have scheduled to watch in the next couple of days. Didn't realise it channelled such depths of depravity. Give 'Le Vilain' a whirl which treats its violence in a far more slapstick/Jeunet mode - be interested in what you think. Dupontel is capable of many different registers seemingly quite effortlessly ( I first came across him as the lead in a Jean Becker film after all) so being charitable he's there for many different tastes and predilections.

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#9 Post by tenia » Wed Oct 03, 2018 4:00 am

I never understood the French seemingly timeless appeal for Bernie. I liked Enfermés dehors and 9 mois fermes, but never found Bernie funny nor interesting because of how dumbly revolting it is. It's as if the movie was simply there to go down on all kind of cheap horrors and lazy shock-effects, except this time around, it's supposed to be funny in a kind of cynical way (except it's not really funny).

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#10 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Wed Oct 03, 2018 4:06 am

tenia wrote:
Wed Oct 03, 2018 4:00 am
I never understood the French seemingly timeless appeal for Bernie. I liked Enfermés dehors and 9 mois fermes, but never found Bernie funny nor interesting because of how dumbly revolting it is. It's as if the movie was simply there to go down on all kind of cheap horrors and lazy shock-effects, except this time around, it's supposed to be funny in a kind of cynical way (except it's not really funny).
Maybe he was just auditioning for his extinguisher wielding part in Irreversible???

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#11 Post by domino harvey » Wed Oct 03, 2018 2:27 pm

I was intrigued to learn Bernie has such a cult following in France. I get it, I guess, since lots of post-Tarantino ultra-violent films have similar fans on this side of the pond, but Bernie is so extreme that I worry a little about y'all embracing it! Since there's only two films left, I guess I'll watch La vilain and Le créateur just to say I've seen them all. Maybe one of these two will cause me to reevaluate my thoughts on Dupontel's comic sensibilities

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#12 Post by tenia » Wed Oct 03, 2018 2:44 pm

I think we went past the horrible things and just took all that stuff as something veeeeeeery dark in its "humor".

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#13 Post by domino harvey » Wed Oct 03, 2018 2:50 pm

Out of morbid curiosity, I looked up the trailer for Bernie and was stunned that two of the most inexcusable incidents of violence early in the film I alluded to in my write-up are among the main attractions in the advertising-- probably because these are the only violent moments in the film without blood or other bodily fluids present (though I guess that didn't stop them from including the scene of Dupontel hitting the junkie's handicapped father with his car). The trailer also very pointedly cuts during the maid's attack to not show what comes next, which is them hitting her again and again with their shovels while blood pours out of her lifeless body. Once might look like Looney Tunes in this trailer, but a dozen blood-soaked whacks changes the tone dramatically

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel, 2017)

#14 Post by Aunt Peg » Wed Oct 03, 2018 3:49 pm

It's funny, I saw Au revoir là-haut at a French Film Festival earlier this year but it was not one of the films I originally selected primarily because I didn't much are for 9 moms ferme and loathed Le villain. Each year at the same festival they show trailers for other film at the festival and trailer for this looked interesting. The screenings also coincided with the Caesars and given the number of nominations I thought I'd give Au revoir là-haut a look. Of the 20 or so films I saw at the festival it turned out to be the best (Custody & Le Redoutable being the other standouts). My previous two Dupontel films simply didn't prepare me for the absolute splendour and scope of this film. I find most CGI annoying and badly used but here it was seamless and never detracted from the narrative drive of the film. Universally well acted, special motional must be given to Nahuel Perez Biscayart who gives most of his performance on visually terms behinds masks with a muffled voice. He is sublime here and its a far more interesting performance than his work in Robin Campillo's well-meaning but seen it all before 120 battements par minute.

If anyone who hasn't seen this gets the opportunity to see it on a bring screen its really worth it as its a visual treat from start to finish. When I got my Blu Ray I loaned to my mother to watch and she loved it.

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel, 2017)

#15 Post by domino harvey » Wed Oct 03, 2018 5:14 pm

Your last comment brings me back to one of my earlier points: how on earth has a major foreign film-acquiring distro not picked this up for the states? This would kill in art houses, as it has a broad appeal to many different potential audiences. It's not hard to even see it getting an Oscar nom for its production design, were it only to be released!

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)

#16 Post by domino harvey » Thu Oct 04, 2018 12:20 am

domino harvey wrote:
Wed Oct 03, 2018 2:27 pm
Since there's only two films left, I guess I'll watch La vilain and Le créateur just to say I've seen them all. Maybe one of these two will cause me to reevaluate my thoughts on Dupontel's comic sensibilities
I didn't actually believe this would happen when I wrote this, but lo and behold...

Le créateur (1999) is in many ways your typical indulgent sophomore slump, another weird, personal project a director chooses to make in the wake of his first success that inevitably bombs and scares him back into retreading what proved more popular. Only I liked this mess much more than the mess that preceded it! Dupontel plays a failed novelist turned playwright who struggles to recreate his first success on stage for his followup project. Yes, we are in the meta realm of commenting on the very thing we’re seeing here, and for much of the film Dupontel’s movie is pretentious and overly pleased with this garden variety self-reflexiveness. The playwright discovers that the creative juices only start to flow once he accidentally murders a neighbor’s cat, which soon leads to killing humans in order to curb his writer’s block. Dupontel gives an audience hoping to see Bernie 2.0 a completely different comic figure, and I was shocked that in a storyline that naturally lends itself to prurient violence, the murders here are actually rather subdued and more about their narrative function than scoring cheap shock points. I also thought the last fifteen minutes or so were quite clever in how they pivoted the film into its actual focus, arrogance, and the absurdity of the final killing spree and Dupontel’s solution to finishing his play are, well, unexpected to say the least. That said, it must also be said that Dupontel over-directs most of the film, and there’s an unmodulated showiness to virtually every scene that renders the film somewhat impotent creatively. Over-virtuosity like this usually signals deep insecurities about the material from the director (see: Arabesque), and indeed perhaps Dupontel was right to be unsure, since this is the only one of his six features as director to bomb at the box office.

Le vilain (2009) was the last of Dupontel’s six features I watched and it floored me, because for once everything Dupontel tries to do in these comedies actually works. This is a black comedy that shows it’s possible to be daring and macabre and still maintain a light touch— unbelievably, I think I ended up liking it even more than Au revoir là-haut! Catherine Frot in old lady makeup plays Dupontel’s mom, who discovers late in life that her estranged son is a lowlife criminal. Frot reasons that this must be why God has cursed her with a very specific form of bad luck: she cannot be harmed no matter what manner of freak accident she encounters, because God is keeping her alive for a purpose. And with her son’s return, she realizes that God’s plan for her must be rehabilitating her son. The genius conceit of this is that the better a person Dupontel becomes, the nearer to death his mom gets, and since Duponel grows to love his mother, this causes a back and forth struggle in his behaviors and actions that delighted me. The film has jokes as pitch black as those in Bernie, but it’s in how they’re relayed and what the stakes are that allow the viewer to laugh. Oh yeah, I actually laughed during this, a lot, because it’s funny. Will miracles never cease?

Frot’s character is especially notable, because it’s really the only interesting, well-written, and well-performed female character in his entire oeuvre. Rather than make her a doddering fool, Dupontel wisely instead allows her to be smart. Wiser still, he allows himself to be smart. I think one of the reasons this and Le créateur work and Dupontel’s other three comedies don’t is because he’s not playing an idiot in either of these, and thus he’s able to find more amusing notes to ring. He’s good here, but he also gets out of the way of Frot, who is given all of the best moments and ably carries the movie. I don’t know much about the politics of the Cesar awards, but how Frot could be nominated for absolute nothing perfs like in La Tourneuse de pages and yet turn up empty handed for this movie is beyond me. And of course the usual crew of Dupontel’s gang of regular actors also make their expected appearance. The film has all of Dupontel’s typical visual stylishness and intelligence, and I loved this playful example of shot-reverse shot that cuts back and forth within the same composition, only changing who is reflected in each shot— brilliant!

Image

Image

Dupontel seems to have had the foresight to anticipate a potential English audience, as I believe rather unusually all French DVD/Blu-ray releases of his films feature English subs… except the Blu-ray for Le vilain! Merde!

+++++

Well, this mini viewing exercise sure ended a lot better than it began! Overall, here’s how I’d rank all of Dupontel’s films, from best to worst:

Le vilain
Au revoir là-haut
Le créateur
Enfermés dehors
9 mois ferme
Bernie

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel, 2017)

#17 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Thu Oct 04, 2018 2:42 am

Voilà! How could you not mention tortoise-cam and the ambivalent relationship to its carrier? I have to admit that the preposterous doctor has me guffawing out loud.
Glad you liked it. Re Frot who I agree pitches it magnificently did you get round to " Un air de famille" during your Bacri investigations?

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel, 2017)

#18 Post by domino harvey » Thu Oct 04, 2018 3:05 am

NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:
Thu Oct 04, 2018 2:42 am
Voilà! How could you not mention tortoise-cam and the ambivalent relationship to its carrier?
We get a couple more of these weirdly distorted animal POVs in Dupontel's other films too: the attacking dog in Enfermés dehors, Momo the cat in Le créateur and then later, amusingly, a pixelated POV that turns out to be
SpoilerShow
a laptop
(I feel like there's at least another example in one of these movies, but I can't remember what it was right now)
I have to admit that the preposterous doctor has me guffawing out loud.
Played by probably the most prominent of Dupontel's regulars, Nicolas Marié, who appears in all of Dupontel's films save the latest. And I haven't seen that Bacri title yet!

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel, 2017)

#19 Post by Aunt Peg » Thu Oct 04, 2018 5:01 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Wed Oct 03, 2018 5:14 pm
Your last comment brings me back to one of my earlier points: how on earth has a major foreign film-acquiring distro not picked this up for the states? This would kill in art houses, as it has a broad appeal to many different potential audiences. It's not hard to even see it getting an Oscar nom for its production design, were it only to be released!
The major problem is that English speaking audiences anyway, have little interest in Foreign Language films these days. 20 or more years ago Au revoir là-haut would have played in all the English language markets and made a bucket load of money. Now they have a hard time being picked up and fail at the box office when they do. The one English language market where this film has played was in Australia. I had seen the trailer twice I think, it opened, ran 4 weeks and closed after making a miserable $44,000 US at the box office. It only played on one screen in Sydney. I was certainly recommending to friends and maybe they saw it - I have asked anyone yet, I'm ironically in France at the moment. But the market has dried up for specialised films, even ones with broad appeal.To me knowledge no UK or US distributor- such a shame and frankly a travesty.

I've noticed that it hasn't exactly set the box office on fire anywhere outside of France and it may be a case of the French being familiar with the source material whilst the rest of the world isn't. Reading this thread today I went over the YouTube to watch the great trailer yet again and to shake my head in disbelief of what people are missing out on.

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel, 2017)

#20 Post by domino harvey » Fri Oct 05, 2018 12:36 pm

I imagine the popularity of the book in France and Dupontel's overall cult popularity helped its box office, but I think the BO numbers are skewed so heavily towards France because that's the only place it's received wide release so far. And now that we are coming up on a year since its initial French release, it may stay that way. Interesting to hear that Australia took a chance on it and came up empty, though. Marketed properly, I could see this playing for a month or two at my local art house Cinema-- it would inevitably get good reviews and as you say, the trailer actually does a fair job of showing the film as it is (I hesitated to post any trailers when I put the five choices up for a vote because only this and Victoria had a trailer that accurately depicted the film!)

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Re: Au revoir là-haut (Albert Dupontel, 2017)

#21 Post by Aunt Peg » Fri Oct 05, 2018 7:39 pm

Actually, the box office I stated is only from its release. I don't know who much money the film made when it was screened at the French Film Festival earlier in the year. Films are screened multiple times in multiple venues across the country at the French Film Festival with weekend screenings getting the largest audiences, followed by weekday screenings. Week nights screenings are scantly attended.

French cinema does relatively well in Australia, particularly if the film stars Isabelle Huppert or Catherine Deneuve. Gerard was big box office years ago, not so much now. We have also been lucky to get some films not released in the UK or US. We also get a number of French films that go directly to DVD. A prime example a recent success in Australia is Rosalie Blum (2015), a feature film debut by Julien Rappeneau and based on a graphic novel. It stars Kyan Khojandi, Noemi Lovovsky and that great character actress Anemone as Khojandi's cantankerous mother. Like the Dupontel it played at the French Film Festival in early 2015, even before it had opened in France and then got released at Christmas 2015 which is the best time to release films in Australia because essentially most of the population are off work from Christmas Day until after New Year and have time to spare - if it rains they do even better business. The film grossed over $1 million US at the Australian box office against over $4 million US at the French box office. Its very delightful with clever story telling and acted to perfection by its fine cast. The advantage Rosalie Blum had in Australia over Au revoir là-haut was that it picked up for distribution by Palace Films who also have a cinema chain and therefore they promoted the film really well. Au revoir là-haut was distributed by Umbrella who don't own any cinema and rely on independent cinema to show their films. I can't recall a film that Umbrella has released in recent years that has made big bucks at the box office. I do think if Au revoir là-haut had been given a release and promotion along the lines of Rosalie Blum it could have experienced the same box office response but it was treated, like a lot of foreign language and small English language films as a throw away release. A filler between Hollywood junk food.

There was a time when the films of Robert Guédiguian were shown on a regular basis, but he seems to be out of vogue in recent years, though to be fair his recent films have been lesser works. Even so one wants to experience them for oneself and for others to have the same opportunity.

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