Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Class, choice, guilt and circumstance: Catherine Corsini's rich THREE WORLDS; plus a short Q&A with filmmaker and star

How rare it is to find a film -- these days, even a foreign one -- with a meaningful and important theme, let alone several of them. Catherine Corsini, a filmmaker who ought to be better known worldwide and certainly here in the USA, has done all this in her newest movie, THREE WORLDS, and managed it so well that her themes and seams blend effortlessly into a brilliant whole. In preparation for this review, I watched the film a second time the other evening with a couple of friends who had not seen it. We were all impressed; I even more so on this repeat viewing.

Ms Corsini, shown at right, who directed and co-wrote this original screenplay, has imagined an event -- an accident that turns into a hit-and-run -- the ramifications of which bring to the surface issues of immigration, class, money, love, guilt (in several forms) and commitment (I may have left out a few other themes) involving nearly a dozen characters -- all of whom get their time in the sun to become fully understandable people, complete with needs and desires, often counter to those of others in this mix. The fact that Corsini achieves all this succinctly and economically within a time frame of 101 minutes is impressive. That we don't in any way feel short-changed is even more so.

Primarily, we have the driver of the car, Al, played by up-and-comer Raphaël Personnaz (above, right), who was so good in last week's The Stroller Strategy and is ever better here, as the pivotal character around whom all else revolves. This would include his fiancee (Adèle Haenel, above, left, also excellent in another of last week's openers, Aliyah) and her father, M. Testard (Jean-Pierre Malo, below, left), who owns the automobile dealership where Al works and is about to gift his new son-in-law-to-be with the title to the firm.

Also in the mix are a couple of Al's co-worker pals, who are with him at the time of the accident; his mom, who for years worked as a cleaning woman at the company; the young woman who witnessed the accident but could not identify the driver (played by Clothilde Hesme, below) and her boyfriend.

Finally there's the victim himself (an illegal immigrant, who remains initially comatose), his wife (Arta Dobroshi, below), family and friends. These people are not connected in the currently popular happenstance manner of movies like the witless and overdone Crash or the recent and much better Disconnect. No -- the connections here are immediate and profound for everyone concerned, and the movie is all the stronger because of this.

Once our protagonist begins having trouble living with himself and what he has done, these connections light up and begin firing on all cylinders. As usual, the less said about plot so as not to spoil surprises, the better -- but the fact that it all hinges not only on unfolding events but on character is paramount.

Ms Corsini also manages to avoid melodrama, no mean feat in a tale like this one. As sad and surprising as the movie becomes, what happens always seems real and understandable, given the people with whom we are dealing.

Performances are everything they need to be from every actor, leads on down. Details are exhibited smartly, too: they register but are never hammered home. (Note the final scene between Al and his father-in-law: heated and angry but with a very sudden and moving moment.) Corsini -- who has already given us the excellent Leaving, Les ambitieux, La répétition and The New Eve -- is a smart and graceful filmmaker, and Three Worlds is her best I've seen to date.

The movie, another very fine one from Film Movement, opens this Friday, June 21, in New York City at the Quad Cinema and at the Sacramento French Film Festival (who knew?!) and in the month following on July 28 at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills. To see currently scheduled playdates, click here and scroll down a bit.

PERSONAL APPEARANCE! One of the film's stars, 
Arta Dobroshi, will be present for Q&A's on Friday 6/21 
and Saturday 6/22 following the 7:15 show.

When, last March during Rendez-vous With French Cinema,  TrustMovies met with both Catherine Corsini and Raphaël Personnaz, I recorded the conversation (some of which was offered last week, with my reviews of The Stroller Strategy). This week, because I'm away from home with only my laptop and not my trusty desktop, on which that interview is stored, I must simply recall the highlight with both the filmmaker and her star.

My biggest question for Corsini, above, having now seen five of her films and having liked them all was: What is it, aside from each film's strong interest in the lives of women (Three Worlds is different by virtue of its male protagonist) that links your films? Or is there anything specific?  To which the filmmaker immediately replied, Yes: in each, the character is trying to find his or her place, his or her identity, within the world that he or she inhabits.

I thought about this, recalling the various films, and sure enough, they all have this feature in common -- and yet so subtle but incisive a filmmaker is Ms Corsini that this does not jump out at you as you watch. Her films are filled with interesting people and ideas and situations, and so you're pretty much enveloped in all of this as you watch.

For M. Personnaz, at right and below, after the rest of our talk (which you can find at the end of the former post here), I wondered aloud if I could ask a somewhat personal question that would involve his past history. A very likeable and gracious guy, he immediately smiled and said, "Of course."

Of these three worlds that the film depicts -- that very fragile world of the illegal immigrant, the lower/working class world of his best pals, and the haute bourgeoisie to which his character aspires -- into which one does he place himself most securely? Obviously, I tell him, you're not an illegal immigrant (at this point, he outright laughs), so which of the other two?

Personnaz smiles again (and what a smile he has!) and tells me that he has actually been pretty firmly embedded in both those worlds. He was a kid from a lower-middle class family in which his dad labored (I believe he said) in the construction industry. After awhile, the family made some money and found themselves living in a higher class in a very different world. But then, he shrugged and grew a bit philosophical, things changed once again. Times grew difficult, the economy suffered, and the family was back again in a less good place.

It was very interesting, noted the now quite successful actor, to see which of his so-called friends stuck with him. Many simply bailed. "We call these "fair-weather friends'," I told him. The actor thought about this phrase for a moment, then smiled again.


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