Best French Films - Cinéma Saturday: 1 French film a week!
Welcome to Cinéma Saturdays - your chance to dive into some of the greatest French films ever made 1 film at a time! Each week I'll uncover some new releases, old favourites and cinema classics for you to explore.
Are you ready to find a seat on your favourite row, pull down your seat, sit down and wait for the lights to dim? This way please...
Today's Film is...
Mr & Mrs Adelman / Monsieur & Madame Adelman
Starring: Nicolas Bedos (Victor Adelman), Doria Tillier (Sarah Adelman), Pierre Arditi, Christiane Millet, Denis Podalydès.
Awards and accolades: Selected in many International Film Festivals, including Berlin.
Nominated for a César Award in the following categories: Best Actress (Meilleure actrice)
Doria Tillier; Best First Film (Meilleur premier film) Nicolas Bedos (director) François Kraus (producer) Denis Pineau-Valencienne (producer.)
Winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Hamptons International Film Festival (2017).
Not a great critical success but I feel it has the hallmarks of Bedos's sense of humour (sometimes dark, often satirical and frequently uncompromising) and clever playfulness and for that I think audiences have enjoyed it more than the critics. He wrote the screenplay with Doria Tillier, real-life partner and lead actor who plays Sarah.
Genre: A romantic comedy? I'd say more like a ferocious love story with drama, comedy and a twist at the end. If it were a novel, it would be unputdownable even when you weren't sure if you wanted to listen to the arguments between characters any more!
The funeral of a famous writer.
Homages rain down but some people wonder about the strange circumstances of his death.
A young biographer asks the widow to tell the couple's story.
Wasn't she his muse, the first person to read his work, and his companion since the 1970s?
So begins a tale covering fifty years of shared life, love, jealousy, cheating...
Doria Tillier and Nicolas Bedos traverse the ages in a ferocious but romantic comedy about an exceptional couple.
How did Sarah and Victor manage to put up with each other for more than 45 years? And who was actually this mysterious woman, living in the shadow of a famous husband? Love and ambition, treason and secrets blend together as we follow the odyssey of this extraordinary couple, within the greater story of the past century.
The film & what I liked:
Bedos stars as Victor to Doria Tillier's Sarah - together they become Mr & Mrs Adelman. We stay with them both through the decades of the latter half of the 20th century and all of France's political and social changes. We see the story unfold from frankly unpromising romantic beginnings in the 70s through the decades of a life of marriage, family, divorce and more. It is a story of 45 years of marriage told from both sides across the bitter disappointments, betrayals, loves, delights, experiences and intellectual life of two writers. It's immense and epic and fizzing with energy.
Bedos says he had Doria to tame his deep love of provocation. I think that comes across very clearly - its characters, themes and uncompromising framing of some subjects helps you to understand Mr & Mrs Adelman very well. Bedos's film has a knowingness, a cleverness that might be what put off the critics deeming it self-indulgent. He seems to have a witty and sardonic sense of humour and the film is often unflinching in its criticism of Parisian intellectual life in the France's Fifth Republic from "champagne socialists", racist attitudes, politicians, intellectuals and the French Academy, bourgeois preoccupations, amongst others.
Truly invigorating and dramatic; deeply narrative-driven and so fascinating at the end! I absolutely loved this film and found it to be darkly funny, deeply romantic, alarming and excruciating as well as clever and touching. It is an epic narrative after all!
It is not at all easy to pigeonhole an audacious film such as this. It's at once romantic and a social commentary on intellectual, racist and sexist prejudices all wrapped up in a beautifully realised film.
Ultimately, its 'dramedy' is a satisfying storytelling and retelling of a long term relationship through two characters shown with all their fears and foibles clear to see. A sparkling, witty and provocative but clever film that is a joy to watch.
Definitely worth 2 hours of your time!
Where to Find it:
Available to rent and buy on iTunes (might depend on your region) for your Smart TV or Apple TV.
Available on Amazon (US) - Prime Video (US only)
Available in the EU at Amazon (French only):
As you can see from this recent photograph of Doria and Nicolas, the age makeup was very good in the film! In fact it takes hours for that makeup to be applied (often arriving at 03h00 for a 10h00 shooting), so Bedos often had 19 hour days acting and directing. Sounds exhausting, but I think it was worth it!
Have you seen this film? What did you think? Do drop me a line with some your favourite French films!
Until next week, when we explore some more French films on Cinéma Saturday!
A note on finding films: Global availability can be pretty mixed, so while I try to give you purchase/rent/stream links, please note that these may vary considerably from region to region. Please do explore your secondhand options for DVDs or your library options at an Alliance Française / Institut Français wherever you are.