Featuring: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Michael Nyqvist, Marina Foïs, Audrey Dana, Pio Marmaï, Clément Métayer, Anaïs Demoustier
Writer/director: Marc Fitouss
Movie website: www.palacefilms.com.au/foliesbergere/
Australian release date: Thu 11 Dec
Verdict: Feel-good with substance. One of the most enjoyable – and moving – films of the year.
Long married couple Brigette (Isabelle Huppert) and Xavier (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) make a good living as cattle breeders in rural France. While they are comfortable, their marriage has lost its spark, and with the children having left home, Brigette is restless. Some flattering attention from a young Parisian attending a party on the neighbouring property prompts her to set off on her own for a couple of days in Paris, supposedly to attend a medical specialist about a persistent rash. She strikes up a conversation with a charming Danish businessman (Michael Nyqvist) staying at her hotel, and one thing leads to another.
The result of her dalliance is not quite as might be expected of a setup like this. The direction the film ultimately pursues is far more rewarding than would generally be the case in an American rom com, for example – but then, this is France, and attitudes towards extra-marital affairs are less hysterical than in the Anglo world. Further, the movie is more fable than rom-com, and more realist than fantasy in the ways it deals with its characters and the situations in which they find themselves.
That said, this is an old-fashioned piece in its dramatic structure and conceits – ie: there are coincidences that would be unlikely in the real world, the narrative is well thought out and fits together like a jigsaw puzzle, loose ends are elegantly tied up, sub-plots resolved. Further, it is wonderfully performed without exception, with the incandescent Huppert the standout. Not all her work is as arresting and endearing as this, but she’s irresistible here. Darroussin is a marvellous foil as her dour, mostly taciturn husband.
In other words, all the dramatic fundamentals have been well attended to – and yay to that, I say. And yes, true to genre orientation, this is feel-good-ending territory, which is just how it should be. There is no sense of corniness. It’s just right. AND, most importantly in my view, because the film works beautifully on all the important levels it is emotionally engaging.
Those who spurn feel-good movies might be feeling a little put off. Don’t be! There is plenty of meat on the bone here, and lots to ponder on and take away that is applicable to life outside the movie – particularly for those who have encountered the dangers of complacency in a long-term relationship.
Folies Bergère is generally light-hearted in tone, but dismiss it as froth and you’ll miss one of the most enjoyable – and moving – films of the year.
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