Ok, I’ll lay my cards on the table. I’ve loved Gérard Depardieu since seeing him strut across the room in leopardskin briefs (and they were brief) in Bertrand Blier’s Tenue de Soirée (Evening Dress) in 1986. And any film that gives a leading role to a dictionary (see Police, Adjective) is equally irresistible. Last but not least, not only had I just had a fabulous supper with congenial company at BangBangs, but I also managed to bagsy a sofa at the fabulous Abbeygate Picturehouse.
So, yes, I loved My Afternoons with Margueritte (La Tête en Friche). Even if no one seems quite able to decide whether it’s Marguerite or Margueritte (though film would suggest the latter). Congenial company did suggest that it was rather like going for a stroll, with no particular destination in mind, but sometimes a stroll is just what the doctor ordered. Particularly if it’s with lovely people with whom you can engage in pleasantly bookish conversation.
Depardieu plays Germain Chazes, a middle-aged man who lives in a caravan in his mother’s garden. Although not lacking in practical skills (he’s a successful gardener, good at whittling and odd jobs) amongst his friends at the local bar he’s certainly not considered, whether affectionately or otherwise, as the sharpest knife in the box. And, in flashbacks of his childhood (a difficult mother and sadistic school-teacher), we’re shown why. However, through his meetings with the 95-year-old Margueritte (equally wonderfully played by Gisèle Casadesus) who believes in the power of literature to help us understand the world, he learns to re-evalue his relationships – not only with books but with those around him.
David Jenkins’ hilarious description in Time Out of ‘Gérard Depardieu, looking like a hay bale in dungarees… It’s basically ‘Educating Rita’, if Rita were French, rotund and Forrest Gump’ certainly made me laugh, but I have to disagree. It’s a beautifully acted, warm, gentle and humorous film. Yes, it is sentimental, but it doesn’t quite cross over into maudlin as [SPOILER ALERT] Margueritte didn’t have to die for either Germain or the slower amongst us to appreciate its moral.