Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

My Afternoons With Marguerite (apology and brief review)

My apologies to the public — and to the good people at Eclipse Pictures and Picturehouse — for neglecting to include a review of My Afternoons With Marguerite in today’s paper. It was my snafu. (I should also have mentioned …

Fri, Nov 26, 2010, 13:44

   

My apologies to the public — and to the good people at Eclipse Pictures and Picturehouse — for neglecting to include a review of My Afternoons With Marguerite in today’s paper. It was my snafu. (I should also have mentioned that Waiting for Superman opened without a press screening in The Screen.) I can only blame old age and brain rot for the omission. Anyway, here’s a brief notice for you to cut out and paste in your soaraway Ticket.

MY AFTERNOONS WITH MARGUERITE/LA TETE EN FRICHE

****

Directed by Jean Becker

Starring Gerard Depardieu, Gisele Casadesus, Patrick Bouchitey

15A cert, limited release, 82 min

“Charming” is one of those words you sling about with some caution when discussing cinema — particularly if the film in question involves a lovable buffoon. But no other term will do to describe the latest gentle drama from the reliable Jean Becker. Gerard Depardieu, more like Obelix than when playing Obelix, turns up as Germain, an oddjob man who, abused by his pushy mother as a child, has grown into a bluff pillar of the community. The chap is treated as an idiot, but, good with his hands and presentable enough to charm a glamorous lady bus driver into bed, he is, perhaps, just saddled with a bad case of dyslexia. Things turn around when he meets an elderly lady in the park who — when not helping him feed the pigeons — reads to him from surprisingly weighty French novels. He takes to Camus’s The Plague and he begins to gain in intellectual confidence.

The picture could easily drift towards the worst sort of saccharine overload, but Depardieu is so endlessly charismatic and the small-town surroundings so winningly conjured up that only the worst sort of heel could turn against it. Far from being an archetypal holy fool, Germain emerges as a fleshy character with a complex series of angles to his engaging personality. It’s been a while since we’ve encountered a feel-good movie that doesn’t risk triggering the viewer’s gag response. This is just such a beast. We need such things in gloomy times.