DIRECTOR: REGIS WARGNIER
COUNTRY: FRANCE 1992
CINEMATOGRAPHY: FRANCOIS CATAMI
MUSIC: PATRICK DOYLE
CAST: Catherine Deneuve, Vincent Prez, Linh Dan Pham, Jean Yanu, Dominique Blanc, Henri Marteau.
SUPER FEATURES: Deneuve, and a really well told story.
This complicated story makes one heck of a film, thanks to the two actors that pretty much carry it. Between Catherine Deneuve, and Vincent Prez, this film actually gets exciting. The matriarch tries to keep a dream alive, and the other tries to keep the politics moving forward, and as he says in the end, the innocent go to jail, and the guilty go free ... which is as much as what the film is about as it is a love story that has become impossible, and a political event on top of it.
Eliane (Deneuve) is a farm owner, who has been able to keep the workers going, and do very well in the process, even if the communist movement is beginning to get closer and closer to home. Eventually, it does so, and the war pretty much ravaged everything, not only the farms, but also the personal lives of many people. Camille is an adopted daughter, by Eliane, and she is set to marry a nice kid that wants to break the bonds of rigidity and change in his own family. And after an education in Paris, he returns, to find that he is forced to marry Camille, and to uphold the family name and aristocratic position. It doesn't happen. His stand is anti establishment, and the communists are providing a better outlook than the old system. After the marriage he leaves.
And Camille, in the meantime gets accidentally involved with a French officer who has been the mother's lover (one of many she says) for some time, which needless to say creates an impossible situation.
The officer gets reprimanded for his behavior at an upper class gathering by getting sent off to a far away outpost. And the young and determined Camille takes off after him on foot. In the meantime the french are beginning to lose control. And Camille finally finds her young man, but he makes a bad judgment and gets his own commanding officer killed in the process. The two young lovers leave, and try to survive for a period under the blessings of a religious group, until their very own situation has become also tenuous, and he is asked to leave. Just then he also gets captured with his own child in tow, and the story now gets serious. The child gets adopted by Eliane, and is raised by her in France.
Camille is captured by the communists, and as is her ability, and determination, she also becomes one of their leaders, mainly because she is a heroine for having killed a French officer.
And in the end (the story is told as a memory by the mother to the young son, now both in Paris) ... a reminder how love can be both intense and meaningful, as well as cruel.
It is an excellent film, very well carried out from beginning to end, and although it is rather slow in parts, it only adds to the need to see it resolved.
While the film steers away from the political opinions, it does make a point of showing that it was the expensive attitudes of the colonialists, much similar to the style of the older feudal, and religious, system that caused the whole country to collapse, not necessarily the invading communists. It is evident in the film that the megalomaniac attitudes of the upper, and ruling, classes is the real problem. And that the new system is promising an end to those regimes, which many are getting tired of. In one scene a group of farmers is destroying a whole family and their belongings by taking back the land they deserve, rather than be owned by others.
It is a film that fits in the mold of THE LOVER, where a similar situation also exists, but the process, or strength of the past still dominates. Here that structure is really seen to fall.... be it westernized or otherwise. But the most important of the mercenaries is the only one that has it all clear... while he has not enough passion in his body to be appreciated and loved by Eliane, he at least has a better command of his feelings, when he knows that there is not much left to do, but go home.
Excellent film, and really quite worth the nomination which Catherine Deneuve received for the Oscar, and it is a shame that she did not get it, in a very competitive year. This film does deserves better fate than be a forgotten exercise in film making.
4 1/2 GIBLOONS
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