Sunday, 27 March 2011

Cinefranco Film Festival: Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert Remain Luminous

Want to start you week off with something different? Why not check out a couple of films at Cinéfranco? This Toronto film festival screens films in French with English subtitles for those of us that need them.

Mammuth (France)
Dir. Gustave Kervern, Benoît Delépine
Monday, March 28th, 9:30 pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street at John)

Two big names in French cinema star in two very different films playing at the festival: Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert. In Mammuth, Depardieu stars as a newly retired pork factory worker who is forced to travel to various locations to gather papers that will allow him to claim his retirement benefits. Taking to the road on his 1970s Mammuth motorcycle, Mammuth (Depardieu’s nickname in the film) is accompanied by memories, most significant of which is in the form of Isabelle Adjani, a former girlfriend. Depardieu is an actor that never seems to be bogged down by whatever role he plays. There never seems to be any obvious technique to his performances. Unlike American actors of his stature, he is still able to lose himself in is roles with a credibility that is astounding. His mannerisms and facial expressions never make you doubt that Mammuth has worked in a factory for many years, or at the other blue collar jobs that are revealed as he visits his old workplaces.

Sharing the screen with Depardieu is Yolande Moreau as Catherine, Mammuth’s equally life-weary wife, working away at her supermarket cashier job that she hates. While Mammuth rediscovers life on the road and through his niece-muse, Catherine gets demoted to the fish department dealing with inane questions from customers and going home to an empty house. There are no extreme highs or lows in this film about two middle aged people going through the motions and eventually realizing that there is a bit of verve and love remaining in life to make it a tiny bit sweeter.

Dir. Marc Fitoussi
Tuesday, March 29th, 9:00 pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street at John)

Like Gérard Depardieu, Isabelle Huppert is still a pleasure to watch on screen. Huppert excels at playing unconventional characters, yet she always endows them with an individuality that makes them real. You never get the feeling that she is rehashing old roles or that she is just phoning it in.

In Copacabana, she plays Babou, a flighty, restless mother who believes she has shared world experiences with her daughter, Esmeralda. Esmeralda (played by Huppert’s real life daughter, Lolita Chammah), on the other hand, see the move from country to country, city to city not as an adventure, but as interruptions to her life that has prevented her from making friends or getting a formal education. Babou cannot understand why Esmeralda decides to take the bourgeois plunge and get married. When Esmeralda informs her mother that she told her future in-laws that Babou is in Brazil and won’t be able to attend the wedding, Babou is both angry and hurt. Esmeralda justifies her decision by saying that by not coming to the wedding Babou will avoid facing the embarrassment of pitching in for the wedding expenses. Babou, however, knows her daughter is ashamed of her bright clothing and make up, and the fact that she has never been able to hold down a job for any length of time. Escaping to Belgium, Babou takes a job selling timeshares to tourists, dealing with judgemental co-workers and meeting with the locals, including a romantic young man who wants more from Babou than she is prepared to give.

Like Esmeralda, we think we have Babou figured out, but the well-directed, clever script leads us into a journey where at each potentially clichéd sign post we are diverted into emotional territories that are true to Babou’s development and Esmeralda’s maturity. Scenes between Huppert and Chammah are honest in their depiction of this mother-daughter relationship. Despite the conflict between their characters, the actors read each other so well that there never seems to be any tension or on-screen competition between the two. The film belongs to Huppert, but Chammah does an excellent job of holding her own with her legendary maman.


Adults $12. Students and Seniors $10. Up to 18 (in person only, with ID) $8
In Person: TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King Street West (10am-10pm)
Phone: 416-599-8433; 1-888-599-8433 (10am-7pm)
On Line:
Surcharge on online and phone purchases. Visit website for complete details

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