Friday, April 26, 2013


Compared to French New Wave cinema’s torchbearers, the cinema of Claude Sautet seem orthodox, different and quite free from unconventional tags attached but at the same time its refreshingly poetic and original in its treatment and execution with Sautet's delicately nuanced touch of his own. In the final spell of his career Claude Sautet carried the full bloom of his creativity with refreshingly mature mark. After watching one of most beautiful film last night, this follow up and the last film of Sautet is one of most refine and beautiful full stop of his graceful career.

An old divorced man who has seen life and time being a judge and then a successful businessman wanted to publish a memoir of his own. By chance meeting in restaurant he encounters a young and pretty Nelly meddling with her personal struggles. He offered her a hand of relief to clear her due debts and also offers an assignment to type his dictated lines for completion of his book. The regular sessions start between two and it slowly opening up both individuals.  A strange but strong bond of intimacy starts building between these two opposite sex of opposite age. It starts breaking barriers between these two strangers when confessing and confronting some of the most personal truths so normally with each other their meetings become more than just a regular routine, its an hour one most eagerly awaited in normal and regular life. But this routine has to end one day! While dealing with subject and characters, Sautet once again maintained a delicate, unhurried and natural pace that permeates the whole film; surely a grace of most of Sautet films. Its world where everything seems so natural and fluid whether characters, their conversation, the status and growth of their complex relationships, nothing seems forced or thrust here.

Sautet’s subjective treatment towards the characters beautifully captures the fragmentary nature of love and its longing in most of his films. There are two intimate and touchy scenes beautifully captured by Sautet between lead protagonists. While Nelly's sleeping in Arnaud’s bedroom in her surprise night stay, we see that the old man carried away by instinctual urge trying to touch her body and then controlling his temptations. When half awake Nelly witnesses his presence near her bed, instead of expected alarm, she wanted him to stay there. We witness that soon she fell back to sleep holding his hand like an innocent child seeking comforting and caring tender touch. The whole silent and private moment encapsulates the realization for Arnaud to set her free from his unlikely attachment at old age. If you have witnessed the pensive moments exchanged in the beautiful final frame of ‘A Heart in Winter’, you must know how gracefully Sautet offered the space for stolen moments in his films. Similar to that film, the last few moments shared between two departed souls here echoes same vibrations. Ah! there is something so divine in that sudden and stolen hug between these two souls.

There’s sublime mixture of beauty and talent in some of refined French actresses. Just like her earlier combination with Sautet, once again Emmanuelle Beart gave one of most resonant performance during the ripe age of her career. Sautet represented her as wishful mademoiselle in both of his final films. Beart has perhaps the liveliest pair of eyes with myriad expressions. Michel Serrault as Arnaud reflects one of most sophisticated act performed by an aging actor. And how can I miss Philippe Sarde’s melodious classical score both in opening and closing titles that echoes emotional vibrations to Sautet’s intimate touch. 

This is cinema to surrender your senses.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A HEART IN WINTER (French) (1992)

‘But one can’t demystify feelings.’

There are films which can’t get over easily once you finished, it strips your emotions and sensibilities to inner truth without manipulation and create deep vibrations. I ended up watching one of the most beautiful and touching love story ever made. It echoes the universal sentiment in so sublime and sophisticated tone and at the same time captures the puzzling internal human nature of its characters.

This is my fifth Sautet film and without a doubt one of the most enriching experience. Though came as late flowering, it is surely his one of the best accomplishment as an artist. Unlike his earlier romantic triangle ‘Cesar et Rosalie’, this is more intense and serious in nature. Maxime is a middle aged man and a reputed violin shop owner is in relationship with young, beautiful and talented violinist Camille. Though various chance encounters somehow she attracts towards Maxime’s friend and partner Stephane who repairs violins in his shop. Now this sets a complex tug of attraction between two. Compared to open and frank Camille, the character of Stephane is reticent, aloof who likes to curb his emotions with fixed pride and detachment. From years he has built this closed world inside him and here he’s facing the woman who came as challenge to that self afflicted barrier. What we witness is touching secret affinity with the lives of three opaque characters. Sautet wonderfully plays with the slow disintegration of relationship between the trio without losing a balance.

Though each characters played their parts so sophisticatedly, the poetry of the film is Emmanuelle Beart who plays Camille and she’s another addition to the list of French actresses I just love for their grace and talent. The melodious notes of violin in chamber music reverberates the internal emotional vibrations the characters passing through and that encompassing us too as an audience.

What a lovely film!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


A criminal’s escapade with a family and a friend begins at railway station of Italy followed by exchange of cars on road and ended on boat ride. As soon as landing on French shore he lost both his wife and a friend in sudden and unexpected shootout witnessed by his two kids to look after in time absolutely unfavorable. If you think this is the gist of the film plot, then let me tell you it’s not. This is just first half an hour of this edge on seat French noir where escape plan continues to shift the directions throughout the film. The film is double surprise for me, the first one is how being a hard core noir fan, the film like this remain unwatched for so long and the second after watching some of the poetic and sublime films of Sautet’s middle career this thrilling masterpiece seems a complete rocking treat.

Unlike those American noirs, it’s almost shot in full bright sunny light and portraying quite a rarity of gangster protagonist’s life. Here is a middle age mobster Abel Davis, who lost his wife and a close friend witnessed by his kids and trying to be a concerning father who tackles and handles both kids to protect from his unfavorable destiny. It’s time for him to face the intrinsic ugly truth of dirty crime business. When the time is bad, nobody wanted to gets their hand dirty. And so those who’re once remained close associate and partners in crime for him became too cautious to involve directly saving Abel and his two kids. He considers it better to rely on a strange driver than his close amigos. With gripping beginning, well nourished middle and the climax that suits tailor-made for finest noir, the film is surely one of the finest French noirs ever made.  

Sautet managed to create a brilliant pace with full control of narrative rhythm and tight structure with classic chiseled B&W camera work. But what’s highlight of the film is its two commendable performances. In absolutely stunning old school criminal’s code, Lino Ventura is the man to watch here. He brought a gangster who’s smart, cool, suave and yet uncontrollably desperate and a helpless gangster who finally realized that time is up for him with enough sacrifice on toll. And he’s having the company of  Breathless fresh Belmondo, the pin up boy of French New Wave.

An absolutely worthy to watch masterpiece of French Crime wave.