Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dialogue avec mon jardinier

2007, France, directed by Jean Becker

Jean Becker's films are considerably less tough-minded than those of his father. Of late, in particular, they yearn for a France that no longer exists, if indeed it ever was, while this film pays ultimately dismissive lip-service to France's social problems, as though a few gentle words can solve the most intractable tensions. At times, the film beguiles -- Becker captures the gorgeous light of late summer and the peaceable rhythms of the garden -- but his ending seems to betray his attempts to mine some deeper rural wisdom by turning the countryside into just another commodity.

If the film were from the US, you'd half expect the gardener to be black -- he's the kind of magical wise man from the other side of the tracks (literally in this case) that's such an irritating trope in American cinema. That said, it's nice to see Jean-Pierre Darroussin play gentle rather than irascible; he walks a fine line with a character who, as written, is a touch on the simple side, but the actor invests him with considerable dignity, and a touch of prickly self-consciousness. Daniel Auteuil, for his part, feels like he picked up right where he left off in Mon Meilleur ami -- he can do this kind of thing in his sleep, and at times it shows, the actor's natural charm notwithstanding.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States