Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Le Goût des autres

2000, France, directed by Agnès Jaoui

Rating: ***

It's refreshing to see a smart, talky French film that's not set in Paris, but rather in a fully realized provincial town with its own distinct artistic milieu (the film was shot in Rouen, not entirely out of the Parisian orbit but large enough to have its own set of priorities). Like her more recent, and even more polished, Comme une image, Agnès Jaoui's début feature tells several interlocking tales, with a local bar forming, in many ways, the intersection point. The script, by Jaoui and partner Jean-Pierre Bacri, isn't quite as openly comic as some of their other collaborations, but their generous view of humanity - the willingness to see both flaws and generosity in almost everyone - is intact. The rich characterisations surely helped, too, in attracting such a wonderful cast: it's not hard to imagine actors clamouring for a role. Bacri, one of the cinema's great curmudgeons, is predictably top-notch in a self-tailored part, and he's well-complemented by Jaoui's radiant barmaid and the less familiar Anne Alvaro as the object of his character's affections. Gérard Lanvin and Alain Chabat form an amusing tandem as Bacri's bodyguard and driver, respectively; Lanvin's world-weary charm integrates surprisingly well with Chabat's naïveté, and it's nice to see both of them working with an intelligent script, given how sorely under-used their skills are on occasion.

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