Best French Films - Cinéma Saturday is here!
Last week, we delved into the comedy genius of Toledano & Nackache's Le Sens de la fête / C'est la vie! Did you enjoy the wedding? 😁
If you missed it, check out that post here and the inaugural Cinéma Saturdays post here.
This week, we're exploring a play turned into a film, set in Paris and with the wonderful (and sadly, late) Claude Brasseur. He was part of the cinema history of France and seems to have had great fun in this part - what fun to be odious!
Brasseur was the son of actor Pierre Brasseur and the actress and scriptwriter Odette Joyeux. His great-grandfather Jules Brasseur was the founder of the Théâtre des Nouveautés in Paris (according to Eye for Film's obituary) You might have seen him in many French film classics including Truffaut's Bande à part. Such a wonderful talent to watch in this comedy, with a dramatic edge.
Let's find out more about The Student and Mr Henri / L'Étudiante et M. Henri.
Cast & Crew
Director: Ivan Calbérac
Cast: Claude Brasseur, Guillaume de Tonquédec, Noémie Schmidt, Frédérique Bel
Screenplay: Ivan Calbérac
Cinematographer: Vincent Mathias
Distributor: Mandarin Films, Studio Canal
Genre: Comedy Drama
Awards & Accolades: Cabourg Romantic Film Festival 2016 Winner
Prix Premier Rendez-vous Actress Award for Noémie Schmidt.
Mr Henri (Claude Brasseur), a retired and disgruntled old man, lives contently on his own in his Parisian apartment. However, his unsteady health is making it harder for him to live alone. Against his will, his son Paul (Guillaume de Tonquédec) convinces him to rent out a spare room to Constance (Noémie Schmidt), a young and vivacious student. Far from being charmed by his newcomer, Mr Henri will use her to create chaos within his family...
What I liked about this film
I love the theatre, its energy, the drama that can unfold in a scene. So it's no surprise to me that I enjoyed this film, based as it is on the stage play written by the screenwriter and director Ivan Calberac. It has a simple plot structure and a location worthy of human drama - the shared apartment in Paris. The fact that the apartment - sharing is no Erasmus student exchange (like in Auberge Espagnole by Cédric Klapisch) but instead two people at completely different stages of their lives. Wonderfully played by Noémie Schmidt (as 'the student' Constance) and Claude Brasseur (Mr Henri), the two have to find new ways to exist alongside each other but with the underlying tension of the "grumpy old man" having agreed a condition with Alice for her to do everything she can to ruin his son's marriage. Here you begin to get the measure of the character. An overbearing father, widowed, and raising his son very much by keeping his wings clipped and in his place. The fact that his son has fallen in love and married someone his father completely disapproves of is a little powder keg for later explosions. A wonderful underlying tension to many of the relationships appear in this film as everyone has a lot going on beneath their veneer of confidence, ability, or respectability.
In fact, the director (playwright and screenwriter too) Calbérac says that he wanted to explore the kind of story where the characters end up having achieved exactly the opposite of what they set to to do. To explore this idea with characters at opposing times in their lives, makes this film all the more appealing. The midlife crises and potential relationship explosions add to the sense of drama that underpins the comedy of the situation and how it unfolds.
It's an enjoyable film, if sometimes a little stilted, possibly from the origins as a play. But overall we can accept the characters as they are and watch what happens to their goals, dreams and plans - together and alone. Will Mr Henri succeed in ruling his son's marriage to his wife "who's an idiot"? Will his meddling succeed as he thinks it will? How will Constance survive apartment -sharing in Paris to succeed in her own plans for her life? It has a charming soundtrack full of the young and the old and some fine performances from the cast. It's a likeable, enjoyable comedy drama with a little bite.
Where to Find It
It's a beautiful soundtrack, which you can listen to on YouTube and it's also available on Spotify.
UK Bluray and DVD
Amazon Prime video UK
Stage Play (in French) from Amazon France
Streaming available in many regions via Amazon Prime Video.
Have you seen this film? Did you like it? Let me know what you thought by email: hello at francewhereyouare dot com or over on social media.
I love to talk cinema!
And when they're closed, I love to talk home cinema. 😉