Leave sarcasm at the snark-check room to enjoy My Afternoons with Margueritte, an ethereal yet moving confection that often works in mysterious ways.
Director Jean Becker adds two parts sentimentality diluted with one part misanthropy, several generous pinches of humor, and voilà – out pops the kind of cinematic soufflé that could only originate in France — although My Afternoons with Margueritte might seem a little half-baked to the cynically devout.
Germain’s girlfriend, Annette (Sophie Guillemin), requires the biggest suspension of belief. She seems too young and pretty for him, and too feminine to be driving a bus. When they appear in the frame together, the film feels suddenly transplaced to another universe.
Becker’s balancing act is aided by two giants of French cinema, Gérard Depardieu as Germain and 97 year-old Gisèle Casadesus, who between them have accumulated a warehouse full of awards and over 120 years of film acting experience.
See ‘My Afternoons with Margueritte’ trailer, left. Smartphones click HERE.
Germain (Depardieu) and the mentally spright but physically failing Margueritte (Cassadesus) first meet over squab in a small French town, sort of. (The film was shot in Pons, Charente-Maritime). They discover their common interest in the pigeons that swarm nearby the park bench they coincidentally share. Germain takes a weekly census of the pigeons and seems to know most of them by name.
As the unlikely pair continue their unplanned meetings, Margueritte begins to share her interest in words and literature with Germain, who can barely read.
The film ostensibly recalls Julie Walters in Educating Rita (1983), but this is a different story. Margueritte is more about unconventional forms of love, loneliness and redemption than it is about words and the pain of intellectual unfulfillment.
Germain is suffering from another kind of emptiness.
Germain’s mother (Claire Maurier) has been taking out her problems with men on him since the day he was born. He persists in painting his name on the town square war memorial, even though he lacks the essential credentials: He’s not not a dead soldier.
Germain’s behavior is puzzling and amusing at first, until painful flashback’s reveal the kind of psychological oppression he has suffered not only because of his gender, but due to his very existence as a human being. By the end of the film, Germain earns a place on the town memorial for heroes — spiritually, if not literally.
My Afternoons with Margueritte is based on Marie-Sabine Roger’s 2008 novel of the same name. The film enters limited release in the U.S. beginning September 16, 2011.
Locations and playdates HERE.
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