Friday, March 9, 2012

Rendez-vous closes with the Foenkinos' DELICACY, opening theatrically next week

The French, bless 'em, have always been best at love stories. Love, after all, is their genre, and it seems, as well, to be their game. As good as the French can be at many other types of films, I don't know that any other country's love stories surpass theirs. Maybe you'll find an odd one from elsewhere now and then that does it. But before you know it, they have sent over yet another strong love story -- comedic, dramatic, quirky, hallucinatory, philosophic and sometimes an odd mash-up. All this is in preparation for telling you that they've just sent us yet another one named DELICACY (La délicatesse) that closes this year's Rendez-vous With French Cinema tomorrow evening and then opens theatrically a mere few days later. Whatever your final judgment on this movie, you will not want to miss it, for it is, I believe, among the most original love stories ever made.

The product, first, of a novel by a widely-praised and internationally-published French author David Foenkinos (above, right) and now brought to the screen by that author and his brother Stéphane Foenkinos (above, left, and a well-known French casting director), the film is the first full-length movie from both of them. It is too unusual, too special, too good, for all tastes, but for mine, it's a strike. And I mean bowling, not baseball (or unions).

As filmmakers, the brothers know how to reel us in with charm and style. The beginning of the movie is simply delightful. As it deepens and expands, the style remains appropriate. Speaking of casting, the brothers have chosen an actress who is indisputably the queen of French romance (these days doubling as the face of Chanel No. 5, after playing Coco in one of the two movies about the designer): Audrey Tautou (above).

The other half of the equation is brought to (somewhat bizarre but absolutely right) life by the French comedian François Damiens, below, who Americans will have seen as the star of The Wolberg Family (if they were lucky and frequented one of the festivals at which it was shown) or the more mainstream Heartbreaker, the Dujardin vehicle OSS 117: Cario, Nest of Spies, and the slightly uncategorizable van Damme "rebirth," JCVD. M. Damiens is a funnyman, visually and physically about as far from a romantic leading man as could be found, but he is also, as The Wolberg Family proves, a disciplined, intuitive and remarkably versatile actor.

The story told by the two brothers is one of true love (above), found and kept completely and beautifully -- until life intrudes. Natalie's (the character played by Tautou) first love is essayed by an actor named Pio Marmaï (foreground, left, whom you may have seen as last years Rendez-vous in Living On Love Alone), a looker who can match his gorgeous visage with a good performance.

To take Natalie from Marmaï to Damiens, and to make this work in every way, would seem no small task. This involves subver-ting audience expec-tations regarding physical appearance, bringing into play the thoughts and feelings of Natalie's friends and co-workers (of which Markus, the character played by Damiens, is one), and even finally involving Natalie's smart, sexy, slightly sleazy boss (a nice turn by Bruno Todeschini, below, left). The entire cast, very well-chosen, delivers the goods. M. Damiens continues to impress and surprise, and Miss Tautou offers a wonderful picture of a smart, autonomous woman, doing her best to cope and then to grow. She's as lovely as ever, but keeps that "gamine charm" to a minimum; consequently, this is one of her finest performances to date.

The movie, just as do the lead characters, hesitates, contemplates, then bounds ahead--sometimes blithely, sometimes crazily. There's one hell of a "kiss" mid-way along that for some may be a deal-breaker. Don't let it, for it is just this sudden, off-the-wall behavior that can set the stage for serious things to come. Delicacy implicitly asks us, What is love? -- a question that has come up often enough in movies. The Foenkinos offer us a genuinely new and complicated view of the answer. For this, we should be very grateful.

The movie, with a running time of 108 minutes, plays at the Walter Reade tomorrow evening, Saturday, March 10, at 6 and 9pm. Both Rendez-vous screenings are sold out, but as I mentioned earlier, it will open theatrically in New York, via Cohen Media Group, this coming Wednesday, March 14, at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and Landmark's Sunshine Cinema.  To see further cities and theaters, click here and then click on Delicacy and then on Theaters and Playdates (right now the Cohen web site has nothing posted, but it assure us that, eventually, information will appear).

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