Daniel Auteuil and Doria Tillier in La Belle Époque (2019)

This romantic drama from actor turned writer/directors Victor Nicolas Bedos (Mr & Mrs Adelman) has been compared to a Gallic variation of The Truman Show. Antoine (Guilluame Canet) is an entrepreneur who has set up a company that specialises in using theatrical artifice and filmmaking techniques to recreate historical periods for clients. The company has its own studios, production staff and actors who brings a particular period to life. Sketch artists and cartoonist Victor (Daniel Auteuil) and Marianne (Fanny Ardant) have been married for forty years, but their relationship has grown stale. Marianne seeks solace in the arms of another man, while Victor grows more resentful and critical of the younger generation and their obsession with social media and technology. Their son gives Victor the gift of having Antoine’s company recreate a historical period for his birthday. Antoine choses to go back to 1974 and the time he first met Marianne at a nice little restaurant in Lyon. The recreation of the restaurant, their first meeting and the period detail, costumes, even the sounds and smells and dialogue are meticulously recreated. Vincent begins to fall in love with the young actress Margot (Doria Tillier) who plays Marianne. She is involved in a complicated relationship with Antoine. Complications ensue. But the experience of relieving his youth also revitalises Victor’s creative urges and brings him and Marianne closer together. La Belle Epoque a light and frothy romantic comedy with a strong sentimental streak and a strong emotional depth, and the film is liberally sprinkled with clever pop cultural references that resonate strongly especially with the baby boomer generation. There are a few laugh out loud moments too that lighten the tone. Auteuil carries the film with his charm, wit and earnest performance.


Xavier Dolan and Gabriel D'Almeida Freitas in Matthias et Maxime (2019)

After the disappointing reception that greeted his most recent films, French-Canadian gay auteur Xavier Dolan returns to more familiar territory with his latest effort. This is the story of Max (played by Dolan himself, his first starring role since 2013’s Tom At The Farm) and Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas in his feature film debut), two twenty somethings who been best friends since childhood. Max, who works as a bartender, has a skin pigmentation disorder that has left him with a prominent wine-coloured mark on his face. He is also trying to look after his abrasive and shrewish mother (Dolan regular Anne Dorval), a chain smoking recovering alcoholic. Matt works as a lawyer for a corporate firm. The two hang around with a group of close friends. But on the eve of Max’s departure for a two-year working holiday in Australia, the two are forced to confront their unspoken deep feelings for one another and address the simmering sexual tension between them. The ninth feature from Dolan Matthias Et Maxime is a more personal film for the filmmaker and explores familiar themes from his body of work – gay identity, relationships, friendship, love, dysfunctional mother/son relationships, vulnerability. It is full of angst, longing and pain, but the drama is interspersed with tender moments and touches of humour. The film also contains many of his stylistic flourishes, an eclectic soundtrack and lots of closeups. There are good performances from the main cast that flesh out the characters and capture their inner emotional torment.

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