Pulling myself out of the languorous stupor I had slipped into in recent months, I watched two French movies recently.
And what a delight the two turned out to be.
With a pleasing jab, they restored the joie de vivre in my life.
Directed by Danièle Thompson, Avenue Montaigne (2006) is less like a movie and more akin to a beautiful painting that casts a spell on you through its rich visual tapestry.
French director Danièle Thompson is a class act.
Besides directing the film, she co-wrote its screenplay with her son Christopher Thompson, who plays a key role in the film set in Paris’ theater district.
Avenue Montaigne has convinced me there are no bad actors in the movie business, only bad directors.
No Grand Plot
If you ask me, the absence of a grand, central plot in this 106-minute film should be no cause for concern for viewers.
A waitress (Cécile de France), who’s just arrived in Paris from the provinces, is the common thread in the lives of three highly stressed, disturbed people – A millionaire widower (Claude Brasseur) is auctioning off his vast art collection; an acclaimed pianist (Albert Dupontel) is tired of public performances and on the verge of collapse; and a popular TV actress (Valérie Lemercier) is sick of her silly TV soaps and desperately yearns to play Simone de Beauvoir in an upcoming movie about Sartre by American director Brian Sobinsky (Sydney Pollack).
The charming, naive guileless waitress with the bewitching smile seems to be the only normal, stable person amidst this neurotic gaggle.
In Avenue Montaigne, I found rich comedy, touching pathos and charming liveliness, an amalgam rare on the screen in any language.
The acting is top-notch, the photography remarkable and the direction superb in this realistic delight.
The French title of the film is Fauteuils d’orchestre.
The Beat That My Heart Skipped
I am a big fan of Romain Duris, who’s made a name for himself as one of the best European actors.
So I picked this 2005 film from Netflix’ DVD collection.
To my delight, Jacques Audiard turned out to be the director of The Beat That My Heart Skipped.
I’m no stranger to Jacques Audiard having delighted in his A Prophet, See How They Fall and Rust and Bone.
Romain Duris plays Tom, a thug involved in evicting people from homes.
One day Tom chances upon his late pianist mother’s old manager who invites him for an auditioning and reignites in our hero a dormant passion for the piano.
Between work as a real estate thug and training hard for a concert audition lies an enormous chasm that some would say is unbridgeable.
Here again, we see evidence of the great talent underpinning Romain Duris’ rise to the top.
Duris’ piano lessons from Chinese immigrant Miao Lin (Linh Dan Pham) and his relationship with his father make for some of the finest moments in this highly engaging film.
Niels Arestrup as Tom’s father and Linh Dan Pham in the role of his piano teacher are picture perfect.
I was surprised by the ending. Neatly done!
Avenue Montaigne and The Beat That My Heart Skipped are both available on Netflix should you care to see them.