Laure Calamy and Patrick the donkey steal the show in Caroline Vignal’s funny and original comedy, a work awarded the Cannes Official Selection Label and which is soon to hit cinemas in France
“It this your donkey? Is he giving you a hard time? It’s the same for everyone, you have to learn to get along.” When, on a romantic whim, the protagonist of Caroline Vignal’s My Donkey, My Lover and I – awarded the 73rd Cannes Film Festival’s Official Selection Label and distributed in French cinemas by Diaphana from 16 September – decides to embark on a trek for which she is in no way prepared, she has no idea that she’s simultaneously triggering an epic countdown which will lead to her own self-discovery. It’s an initiatory journey set to the tune of a romantic comedy and against vast, magnificent landscapes, but it’s also a hilarious “buddy movie” which unites a woman and a donkey, paints a moving portrait and magnifies the virtues of stripping back to the essentials and getting back to nature (without concealing the complications such a process involves).
“Et je sens la fièvre qui me mord”. Just like in Véronique Sanson’s song Amoureuse, which teacher Antoinette (Laure Calamy) performs, ablaze, before an audience of disconcerted parents at the school’s end of year celebration, our protagonist is in full emotional and sensual bloom, owing to her secret affair with Vladimir (Benjamin Lavernhe), the father of one of her Year 5 students. But their plans for a week of freedom in Paris are brutally upended: Vladimir, his wife (Olivia Côte) and their daughter have changed plans and are now trotting off into the Cévennes region to embark on a hike with a donkey. But never mind! Impulsive Antoinette sets off on their trail (without telling anyone) and on the path walked and described in 1879 by Scottish writer Robert-Louis Stevenson in Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes… On the itinerary are six stages of roughly twenty kilometres a day, with nightly stopovers scheduled in gites with all their communal meals and shared dorms.
Suffice to say, Antoinette causes an immediate stir among the seasoned hikers, especially after swiftly confessing the sentimental reason behind her trip. Her fame grows as the days pass and as the exhausting (but also cruelly funny) hardships mount up behind her, starting with the need to make her partner – the donkey, Patrick – advance. But what will happen if Antoinette’s wish to cross paths with Vladimir (encumbered by his young family) actually comes true?
Carried by the sensational Laure Calamy, who is wonderful in her delivery of a comic-come-pathetic performance whilst also offering up a moving display of bravery in adversity, the film paints a very beautiful portrait of a woman through the mirror of the unexpected bond she slowly forges with Patrick; one which starts off strained given the animal’s contrary nature, but which sees them gradually grow accustomed to one another (with Antoinette telling him a bit about her life, notably her “gift for falling in love with the worst possible guy, at the worst possible time, in the worst possible place”). Together they form a duo which raises a lot of laughs, gracing a storyline which proceeds at the soothing pace of the walk and of the unexpected encounters they experience amidst nigh-on desert-like, breath-taking panoramas. It’s an ideal setting for re-centring oneself and for a feature film as charming as this one.
Maïmouna Doucouré’s prize-winning directorial debut is a smart, empathetic coming-of-age drama.
Early on in “Cuties,” Amy (Fathia Youssouf), an 11-year-old Senegalese immigrant living in Paris, hides under a bed and eavesdrops while her mother, Mariam (Maïmouna Gueye), makes a few difficult phone calls. Her husband has decided to marry a second wife, she tells her friends; yes, isn’t that wonderful news? Amy, from her partially obscured vantage, can’t see her mom’s tears, though she can hear the barely disguised anguish in her voice. At the same time, she has perhaps never seen Mariam more clearly, a woman whose long-suffering heart and tough exterior are finally on the verge of breaking. Continue reading “‘Cuties’ review: Despite Netflix bungling, it’s worth seeing”→
François Ozon revisits the romantic passions of adolescence with the accuracy and great rawness of emotion that are characteristic of his mature and masterful filmmaking approach
The exaggerated nature of desires and feelings, the sky-high intensity of the moment such that every single second assumes timeless dimensions, the clash of contradictory emotions, the shared secrets and pacts, the search for the other as a mirror of love, flirtation with risk and the electrified zone where Eros and Thanatos intermix, all set against the most banal daily life imaginable, composed of parents, high school, holidays and hesitant plans for the future. Adolescence is the age of plunging into the unknown, of nebulous transitions, of instinctive joy and deep, deep suffering; a time for romanticism par excellence Continue reading “Film Review: “Summer of 85””→
Three memories of my youth by Arnaud Desplechin (2015)
As Paul Dédalus leaves Tajikistan to return to Paris, memories of his childhood in Roubaix, of his trip to the USSR when he was a teenager and, above all, of his love for Esther, come back. Paul, whom we follow as a little boy, teenager and adult, never ceases in Three memories of my youth to remember his past, his three bodies – and the story – then becoming one.
His adventures, which oscillate from humor to tragedy, thrill the viewer, constantly brought back, by a game of mirror, to his own previous life. Rewarded at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes in 2015 as well as at the César the following year, Desplechin takes us through his art of dialogues and his staging, transfiguring our own memories to make it a labyrinth, between fascination and destruction.
Un amour de jeunesse by Mia Hansen-Løve (2011) and Eden (2014)
Still on the theme of torments of youth, Netflix offers two films by director Mia Hansen-Løve: Eden and Un amour de jeunesse . The second succeeds, through its delicacy and restraint, in telling a love affair, from adolescence to the edge of adulthood, all without ever falling into pompous emotional scenes. Eden , him, signs the virtuoso portrait of a DJ brought to the summit of success in the middle of the French Touch period, a musical movement which, for him, will only be fleeting.
Considered a “masterpiece” by the Inrocks , L’inconnu du lac by Alain Guiraudie is an open-air camera, surrounded by love, sex and death. It is therefore impossible to miss this jewel of French auteur cinema, which, beyond its brilliant staging, explores all possible themes, registers and metaphors.
The recipe is clear and modest: “A lake, a beach, groves, parking, an R25, a few nudist men and three characters” (including Pierre Deladonchamps, wonderful). And if that still does not seem convincing to you, here is the trailer below.
Palme d’Or at the Cannes Festival in 2013, La vie d’Adèle , adapted from the comic strip Blue is a warm color by Julie Maroh. At 15, Adèle is a serious student who questions her sexuality when she first meets the eyes of Emma, a mysterious young woman with blue hair. A great work of the seventh art, bringing to life the idea that literature can lead to self-acceptance, La Vie d’Adèle , a sensual film which borrows all the codes of the learning novel, is part of it ( despite the controversies surrounding its shooting ) of the most beautiful films of French author cinema of the decade.