Jean-Pierre Bacri finds love in Cherchez Hortense
by Domenico La Porta
- Pascal Bonitzer's sixth film as a director has brought a lighter note to the 69th Venice Film Festival's sometimes quite dark selection
Although he is perhaps better known as a scriptwriter for André Téchiné, Jacques Rivette, or even Raoul Ruiz to only cite a few of his most loyal colleagues, Pascal Bonitzer has returned to directing with a very Parisian bitter-sweet comedy that has been selected out of the competition for the Venice Film Festival.
Damien (Jean-Pierre Bacri) and his wife Iva (Kristin Scott Thomas)'s love is mired in a mountain of routine and disenchantment. He is a professor of Chinese civilisation, while she is a theatre director not entirely immune to the charm of her young actors. Damien has a cool, distant relationship with his father (Claude Rich), a high-ranking state judge whose help he seeks in vain to prevent a young undocumented girl from being thrown out of the country. This girl (played by Isabelle Carré) will re-awaken romantic feelings in Damien...
Cherchez Hortense [+see also:
film profile] (lit. "Look for Hortense") does not really take up the cause of the undocumented, but rather uses it as a pretext to lightly tie together a story set in the same intellectual bourgeois milieu as that from which comes its author. This is perhaps why Bonitzer is able to credibly tell the story of this man in his fifties who manages to regain control of his love life, a decade later than is usual for most mid-life crises. Jean-Pierre Bacri needs no more than one shot to become this character grumpily resigned to life and patriarchy, as well as to administrative and social rules that he clumsily attempts to break. He who, during a trip to China, has once discovered his passion for a millenia-old civilisation, today has been reduced to dissecting Chinese business practices for French entrepreneurs. He feels like he has sold himself, and his encounter with this slightly naive undocumented girl gives him the will to make amends with both himself and her, after he initially deceives her.
Quite a classical dramatic comedy for France, Cherchez Hortense sometimes lacks accuracy in the most insignificant of situations (a telephone conversation that feels fake, unlikely coincidental meetings in the huge city that is Paris... ), but it however offers great moments of comedy (notably on the theme of homosexuality). The film emanates a certain tenderness, but it would have been better if it had been based on a slightly more consistent story, a satire, or more profound reflection on the several themes that it only lightly touches upon.
(Translated from French)
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