Tuesday, March 6, 2012

At Rendez-vous: Téchiné's masterwork? UNFORGIVEABLE comes pretty damn close

One of the reasons this year's Rendez-vous With French Cinema seems so special is that several world-class filmmakers are represented by movies that show them working at, or close to, the top of their form: Lucas Belvaux with 38 Witnesses, Benoît Jacquot with Farewell, My Queen, Robert Guédiguian with The Snows of Kilmanjaro -- and now André Téchiné's UNFORGIVEABLE (Impardonnables) joins this group. Téchiné and Guédiguian are similar in how their movies often span a wide canvas of characters, though the former is never nearly so overtly political as the later. This does not mean that Techine is not political, but he always arrives there via different routes than other filmmakers. His new film is so utterly fascinating, so perfectly cast, and so full of humor, surprise, sadness and mystery (the mystery of character) that, moment to moment, I believe it may be his very best. It also may be his most accessible for a relatively mainstream audience.

Unforgiveable gives the classic beauty and fine French actress Carole Bouquet her best role in years as an ex-model who now deals in real estate in Venice, Italy, and early on in the film becomes involved with a writer of Gothic mysteries, played by another grand old Frenchman André Dussollier (below, left), who has come to Venice to find a way around his current writer's block.

Into the mix are introduced that remarkable Italian actress Adriana Asti (above, right), whose relationship with Bouquet goes way back; her son, played by Mauro Conte (below, right, with dog*), a very troubled youth; Dussolier's daughter, Mélanie Thierry, and the impoverished-but-sexy Italian royalty, Andrea Pergolesi, she becomes involved with.

There are more, but these half-dozen characters are enough to set the game in motion, allowing the filmmaker (he co-adapted the scenario from the novel by Philippe Djian) to explore again, and so very well, our needs and desires, and why we betray others, even as we inevitably inflict the worst damage upon ourselves.

In a way, the movie is slice-of-life, Téchiné-style, in that it cuts a wide swatch and burrows deep. A number of unforgiveable things are done along the way, the biggest, perhaps, by the character played by Dussolier. And yet, I suspect that this filmmaker would tell us -- hell, he's shown us -- that very nearly nothing is unforgive-able. Not when we fully understand where it comes from. And Téchiné, maybe more than any other movie-maker I can think of, is always in there, probing, questioning, making sure that we do.

Unforgiveable screens only twice at Rendez-vous -- Wednesday, March 7, at 6:30pm at IFC Center and Friday, March 9, at 8:45pm at the Walter Reade.  But Téchiné's oft-U.S.-distributor Strand Releasing, has picked this one up, so we will be seeing it again -- and soon I hope.  Oh, yes: Carole Bouquet will be making a personal appearance at both screenings!

*That dog is amazing -- much better than the little guy in The Artist (same breed, too, if I am not mistaken).  But this one is so incredibly lively and funny, plus he has a scene that will nearly destroy you. He's a don't-miss, all on his own.

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