Monday, June 16, 2014

With Sébastien Betbeder's intimate 2 AUTUMNS, 3 WINTERS, Film Movement has another winner

Using narration -- and by this I mean a narrative voice-over -- in one's film is often seen as somehow "cheating," as though, since the filmmaker doesn't know how to show us, s/he has to tell us instead. That theory meets its match, and then some, in the recently released to theaters and now making its streaming debut tomorrow (on Netflix and elsewhere), 2 AUTUMNS, 3 WINTERS, the very unusual French film from Sébastien Betbeder. This movie is chock full of narration, beginning to end, as its characters face the camera in the midst of their activities to break the fourth wall and speak directly to us. What they tell us is smart, genuine, often deeply-felt and completely engaging.

I can't remember a movie that uses this much narration or does it this often. The effect is cumulative and quietly riveting. Because M. Betbeder, shown at right, intersperses these talk-to-us moments with more typical life-passing-in-front-of-us movie storytelling, we see all the characters from two standpoints: how they act in "normal" life, when they are being observed by others, and how they feel about themselves and their lives when they are "alone with us," as it were. This unusual combination results in our being able to view, understand and sympathize/empathize with these characters more completely, it would seem, that in movies of standard creation.

Of course, it is not simply this dual view we are offered that makes 2 Autumns, 3 Winters work so well. If it were, we'd be getting much more of this kind of movie-making, which Betbeder manages extremely well. The filmmaker also manages the details well -- what he selects to show and tell about these characters. This is key, and the details we get here go to great lengths in making us care so much for our quartet of main characters, plus a few supporting ones tossed in for good measure (and further enjoyment).

The main characters here are the man, Arman, played by Vincent Macaigne (shown two photos up, of A World Without Women: click and scroll down) and the woman, Amélie  (Maud Wyler, above), who first meet while jogging in the park, are attracted to each other, but only slowly heed that attraction.

The second couple (Benjamin and Katia), younger, are portrayed by the adorable Bastien Bouiillon (above) and Audrey Bastien (whew: There area lot of bastiens connected to this movie, including its director!). We see our couples together and separately, in times of trouble and delight. And we come to know them and their lives remarkably well.

There's a scene during a mountain hike in which Amélie suddenly breaks into tears and sobs. How we learn more about this, over time, via narration and action, offers the kind of complex look at things that we seldom get at the movies. Even so, and with all these complexities, human character still remains something of a mystery, which is as it should be.

Scene after scene -- a mugging and maybe worse, a reunion with an old school chum, a family dinner, a possible suicide prevention -- is brought to beautifully imagined life (there is not a lifeless moment in the entire movie) and the overall effect is to make us more and more aware of the complications and haphazardness of our lives, even as we cling so hard to those we love most.

M. Betbeder has opened the door here to a new style of moviemaking. Because there are no car chases nor explosions, I don't think we need worry about this kind of film nosing out the more popular blockbusters. But, for those who are looking for adult fare, characters you understand and care about, and a quiet push on the ever-explaning creative boundaries, here is a movie for you.

2 Autumns, 3 Winters -- from Film Movement and running 92 minutes -- hits the street tomorrow, Tuesday, June 17, on DVD and streaming sources. Go for it.

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