‘Petite Maman’ review: The best family movie you’ll see in a while

Identical twin sisters play a pair of mysterious playmates in Petite Maman, an enchanting film that achieves an emotional depth that eludes many movies twice its length.

Source: ‘Petite Maman’ review: The best family movie you’ll see in a while : NPR

The writer and director Céline Sciamma makes beautiful movies about girls and young women navigating the complexities of gender and sexual identity. You can tell as much from their titles: TomboyGirlhoodPortrait of a Lady on Fire.

Her wonderful new film, Petite Maman, is no less focused on the inner lives of its female characters. But it’s also something of a departure: This is Sciamma’s first work to earn a PG rating, and it’s both the best family movie and the best movie about a family that I’ve seen in some time.

It tells the gently surreal story of Nelly, an 8-year-old girl played by the remarkable young Joséphine Sanz, who has long brown hair and a sharp, perceptive gaze. Nelly’s just lost her maternal grandmother after a long illness. Now, she watches as her parents go about the solemn task of packing up Grandma’s house — the very house where Nelly’s mother, Marion, grew up years earlier. To pass the time, Nelly plays in the woods surrounding the house. It’s there that she meets another 8-year-old girl, who also happens to be named Marion. She’s played by Gabrielle Sanz, Joséphine’s identical twin sister.

This eerie encounter naturally raises a lot of questions: Who is Marion, and why does she look so much like Nelly? Is this forest the backdrop for a modern-day fairy tale, or have we slipped through a hole in the space-time continuum? Sciamma is in no hurry to provide the answers. The title Petite Maman — which translates literally as “Little Mom” — provides a bit of a clue. But one of the pleasures of this movie is the way it casually introduces a series of strange events as if there were nothing strange about them at all.

At times the movie feels like a live-action version of Hayao Miyazaki’s anime fantasies like Ponyo or My Neighbor Totoro: full of childlike wonderment, but also very matter-of-fact in its approach to magic. Rather than being puzzled by the situation, Nelly and Marion simply accept it and become fast friends. You accept it, too, mainly because the Sanz sisters have such a sweet and funny rapport onscreen.

Sciamma’s camera follows the girls as they run around the woods, gathering leaves and branches to build a hut. Eventually Marion invites Nelly over to her house, which looks an awful lot like Nelly’s grandmother’s house. There, the girls giggle as they cook up a messy pancake breakfast and act out a hilariously elaborate murder mystery. Few recent movies have so effortlessly captured the joy and creativity of children at play.

Petite Maman itself plays a kind of game with the audience, and you figure out the rules as you watch. You learn to tell the girls apart based on slight differences in hairstyle and the colors that they wear. You also get to know a few of the adult characters hovering on the periphery: At one point, Nelly introduces her father to her new best friend, and if he thinks there’s anything weird about this, he doesn’t show it. Meanwhile, Nelly’s mother — the older Marion — has temporarily left the house, needing some time to herself to grieve her mother’s death.

And without a hint of didacticism, Petite Maman reveals itself as very much a movie about grief, about how a child learns to cope with sudden loss and inevitable change. It’s also about how hard it is to really know who your parents were before they became your parents. But in this movie, Nelly gets the rare chance to see or perhaps imagine her mother as the sweet, sensitive, independent-minded young girl she used to be.

Although Petite Maman is decidedly different from Sciamma’s art-house touchstone Portrait of a Lady on Fire, they’re structured in similar ways: In both films, two female characters are granted a brief, even utopian retreat from the outside world and something mysterious and beautiful transpires. If that’s not enough of an enticement, you should know that Petite Maman runs a tight 72 minutes and achieves an emotional depth that eludes many movies twice its length. It’s funny, sad, full of enchanting possibilities and over far too soon — sort of like childhood itself.

“Brassens, memories too beautiful for me”: the delicate and moving testimony of Agathe Fallet, who was the friend of the poet

By Annie Yanbekian (translated)

Agathe Fallet was the wife of the writer and screenwriter René Fallet, a close friend of Georges Brassens. She thus rubbed shoulders with the poet-singer for a quarter of a century, until his death in October 1981. Forty years later, in a short and superbly illustrated book, she reveals her memories.

Agathe Fallet waited forty years to unveil the treasures buried in her memory. Treasures of humanity from a time gone by, that of his youth alongside her husband René Fallet, writer ( Paris in August, Le Triporteur, La Soupe aux choux …), screenwriter, and above all a great friend by Georges Brassens, which allowed him to work closely with the poet.

The testimony: As the centenary of the birth of Brassens approaches, Agathe Fallet (her real first name is Michelle, Agathe being her nickname) has decided to share her memories, in order to return to her, “before the end of everything” , his “personal tribute”. Because she blames herself, even today, for“all his admiration and all his tenderness”.

However, although it might never have been formulated verbally, there was indeed some tenderness between Georges Brassens and the young wife of his friend René. This tenderness is palpable in the gorgeous photo used for the cover of the book. It is rare that a single illustration can thus summarize a whole work, a whole history of humanities. Georges Brassens, smiling warmly, carries with an incredible benevolence the young woman who is made very small in his arms …

A circle of poets and beautiful souls

The author was not yet seventeen when, in July 1956, she married René Fallet, twelve years her senior. By uniting her destiny with that of the writer, she joined a circle frequented by artists from all walks of life, as illustrated by the splendid photos of her wedding: they are signed by Robert Doisneau, for the most part. The only thing missing was Georges Brassens, already very famous at the time, and who “had delegated Püpchen”, his companion, because ” he was friendly enough not to steal the show from the bride and groom”, believes Agathe Fallet.

Agathe Fallet’s memories are first of all extracts from letters, such as brief chronicles, that René sent her when they were engaged, letters which speak of Brassens. It is then precious moments, but not always exhilarating, Impasse Florimont in Paris, where the young woman spends time with Jeanne, the hostess, and Püpchen, the woman of the life of Brassens, coquettish on her physical appearance. , worried about her age difference with her man (she was ten years older than him). Meanwhile, René Fallet and the poet are upstairs, in “the bedroom-office where Georges worked and enjoyed himself so much” . This piece, Agathe will never see it, “except in photo”. “Unfortunately for being a girl …”,she slips with touching sincerity. It is also an era that lives again in these lines.

Forty years later, an intact wonder

Fortunately, life, dinners with friends, trips to the provinces, tours, allow the young woman to share incredibly privileged moments with Georges Brassens. There are these trips by car where Agathe sometimes takes the wheel of the poet’s DS, at the latter’s request, after overly watered meals … There are improbable conversations, like that day when he said to her without shouting station: “Don’t you think I only hang out with idiots?”

This so personal work gracefully delivers a bunch of little stories, anecdotes, memories, which allow us to sketch portraits in nuances of Georges Brassens and his close entourage. And one always feels, from the first to the last line, this astonishment, this wonder, intact after so many years, to have been there, so close to Brassens. How not to envy Agathe Fallet for having lived all these moments?

The book ends with a small series of photos and personal archives of Agathe Fallet, an article by her husband on Brassens, cards and dedications by the poet … From delicacy and emotion, to final pages.

The cover of Agathe Fallet's book published at the end of October 2021 (ÉDITIONS DES ÉQUATEURS)


“Brassens, memories too beautiful for me”, by Agathe Fallet (Ecuador, 128 pages, 18 €)

Extract: “I listen to Brassens. When it is he who sings. Nobody should allow himself to sing it. His voice has not yet faded, as far as I know. And if that happens, we will read it and we will read it again.
It seems to me that Brassens has become for some a kind of business and that troubles me. I’m probably wrong. We really love Brassens. But Georges is forgotten. He was in the flesh. He was so handsome, incredibly handsome. His voice remains, you must not cover it. ” ( Brassens, memories too beautiful for me, page 17)Source: “Brassens, memories too beautiful for me”: the delicate and moving testimony of Agathe Fallet, who was the friend of the poet

Please don’t turn Notre-Dame into a post-Vatican II cathedral to the modern world

Like many parish churches built in the 1970s and ’80s, the Notre-Dame redesign seems to take its inspiration from sensibilities unique to our own decades, rather than drawing on time-tested understandings of God.

By Doug Girardot

It was a sunny Marathon Monday in Boston in 2019 when I got a notification on my phone that the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris was on fire. I watched a live video feed as flames engulfed the lead-and-wood roof of the church. As Notre-Dame’s ornate spire collapsed, I felt a sadness that must have been similar to how people reacted as they watched the Twin Towers collapse in New York in 2001, even if for different reasons.

More than two years later, the teams working on Notre-Dame’s rehabilitation have come up with new plans for its interior. The proposed redesign hardly alters the cathedral’s existing structure, but it does envision a so-called discovery trail around the church to help visitors learn the story of the Bible, as well as spaces for meditation and digital projections of Bible verses in different languages. The tentative plans—shared by the London-based paper The Telegraph on Nov. 26—have caused an uproar among tradition-minded pundits. (The details are scheduled to be revealed publicly on Dec. 9, when the National Heritage and Architecture Commission will begin reviewing them.)

The proposed changes to Notre-Dame would not make the cathedral into a “theme park” or “woke Disneyland,” as certain commentators on both sides of the Atlantic would have indignant readers believe. The restoration designers—led by a Catholic priest, the Rev. Gille Drouin—are evidently striving to reach out to nonbelievers from around the world and to educate Christians about their own faith.

All the same, I do agree that the cathedral should stay as it was. Notre-Dame, in all of its Gothic magnificence, serves as a vital reminder of God’s grandeur. I understand where the cathedral’s redesigners are coming from, and I would not dismiss any modern innovation out of hand, but there are better avenues for them to pursue the work of evangelization they are trying to do.

Ultimately, the controversy over the proposed redesign of Notre-Dame reflects a debate about how we approach God. Do we see him as a philosophical wonder, a mystery, praiseworthy above all else? Or do we seek the more personal and active God we meet in Jesus?

Although Christianity is founded on belief in the Trinity, there are a number of dualities in our faith: Jesus was both human and divine; the contents of our faith are found in both Scripture and tradition; the Eucharist comes to us in the form of bread and wine. There is also a binary of how we conceptualize God: The Lord is the unfathomable and infinite creator of the universe, but he is also the poor man from Roman-occupied Palestine who showed mercy toward sinners and healed the sick as he wandered around Galilee.

In our time, the church has emphasized this pastoral view of God embodied in Jesus—and rightly so. In the centuries before the Second Vatican Council, the institutional church had gradually separated from the community of believers, leaving some with a more abstract understanding of their faith; for many, ritual and dogma were given pride of place over a personal relationship between themselves and God. The reforms of the council can be said to have renewed the church, reminding Christians that God is close to each of us in an intensely personal way.

The proposed changes run the risk of making a timeless monument to God’s majesty into something much more pedestrian.

Vatican II might seem worlds away from discussion of a 13th-century cathedral, but the way in which the council reframed our conception of how God relates to humankind speaks to the current controversy.

While I am sympathetic to the intentions of the team working to redesign the cathedral, I am skeptical that the proposed alterations will ultimately make a substantial difference in evangelizing people from around the world. The additions may push a handful of visitors each day to reconsider the Christian faith (or to consider it for the first time), but did the splendid architecture and reverent atmosphere of the cathedral before the fire fail in this regard? And isn’t the worldwide synod that the church is currently undergoing a better (and less expensive) tool to reach out to such groups on the margins of the church in a deeper way?

Unfortunately, like many parish churches built in the 1970s and ’80s, the Notre-Dame redesign seems to take its inspiration from sensibilities unique to our own decades, rather than drawing on time-tested understandings of God, which are as old as humanity itself. The proposed changes run the risk of making a timeless monument to God’s majesty into something much more pedestrian.

Because of our human imperfection and limitations, no cathedral can ever capture the myriad of facets of God’s divinity. But Notre-Dame in its pre-2019 iteration did a more than adequate job of expressing the transcendent nature of God, and that was enough. The cathedral’s soaring turrets, vaulted ceilings and pointed arches cause us to look up toward the heavens, spiritually no less than literally.

Like many other intellectual and aesthetic products of medieval times, Notre-Dame continues to remind Catholics of how small we are next to God in all his immensity, majesty and splendor. Just because we have opened our field of view to include the Son Incarnate does not mean that we should lose sight of the Father Almighty.

***

Doug Girardot is an O’Hare Fellow at America. He graduated from Boston College in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in history.

Source: Please don’t turn Notre-Dame into a post-Vatican II cathedral to the modern world | America Magazine