Monday, April 27, 2015

MARIE'S STORY: Jean-Pierre Améris' wondrous film about handling handicaps in France, 1900

What a glorious tale is MARIE'S STORY, and what a privilege it is to be able to so completely enter a new and alien world like the one shown us in this French film by Jean-Pierre Améris. The movie will surely bring to mind, for older folk, The Miracle Worker and the story of Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan. Talking place in the verdant French countryside, in roughly the same decade that the Keller story occurred here in the USA, this tale of a blind and deaf French girl, Marie Heurtin (Keller and Huertin were born but five years apart), will enchant and move you in ways both expected and surprising. And the fact that you will know, almost from the first scene, where the film must go will not in any way make the journey less wondrous or gripping.

M. Améris (shown at right), who has earlier given us several fine films, including Romantics Anonymous and Bad Company (French version), is evidently not a filmmaker content to stay in the same genre. Other than via the quality of his films, I am not sure you would know that this is the fellow who had made them all. As chirpy, chipper, bubbly and odd as was Romantics Anonymous, Marie's Story proves equally quiet, clear and deeply felt. Both are as different as can be and yet work about as well within their genres as they possibly can. In his new film, Améris seems to know exactly where to place the camera -- and when, and for how long -- so that special moments become just that, without ever trying our patience or resorting to mere cliché.

Marie's story is that of a blind and deaf girl whose father refuses to commit her to an asylum and instead takes her to a convent where the nuns teach and train deaf girls. But blind and deaf? That's another matter. Thanks only to Sister Marguerite (played by the versatile and always commendable Isabelle Carré, at left, above), who insists that they give Marie (a knockout performance from Ariana Rivoire, above, right) her chance, we are able to experience the pain and emptiness, and then the growth and change that occur.

The supporting cast is small but well-used, with the fine Brigitte Catillon (above, center) as Mother Superior and Noémie Churlet (above, left) as Marguerite's best friend and accomplice in Marie's training.

What seals the movie's success is how well the filmmaker, who both directed and co-wrote (with Philippe Blasband), has managed to bring us into the world of Marie, in all its sadness, hunger and finally joy. Perhaps the deepest moments arrive as Marie must come to terms with Marguerite's increasingly fragile health.

The natural world and its beauty is shown us in the way Marie finally understands it. We are there, at one with the girl, as she progresses from wild child to alert, thoughtful, caring young woman. What a journey!

One of the gifts and grace of motion pictures comes in affording us the opportunity to go places we would never otherwise venture. Marie's Story manages this -- in spades.

The movie -- another don't miss from Film Movement and running just 95 minutes -- opens this Friday, May 1, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema. It will hit L.A. at Laemmle's Royal on Friday, May 29, and in between and after at a number of cities across the USA.

Click here and scroll down to see all currently scheduled playdates, past and present, with cities and theatres listed.

No comments: