Ever since she broke up with Nigel, Lena soldiers on through life as best she can with her two kids. She valiantly overcomes the obstacles put in her way. But she has yet to confront the ...
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L'Astragale is a 2015 French drama film directed by Brigitte Sy. It is the second film adaptation of the 1965 semi-autobiographical novel L'Astragale by Albertine Sarrazin, after Guy Casaril's L'Astragale.
Ever since she broke up with Nigel, Lena soldiers on through life as best she can with her two kids. She valiantly overcomes the obstacles put in her way. But she has yet to confront the worst of them: Her unstoppable family has decided, by any means necessary, to make her happy.Written by
American Film Market
This is only the second picture by Christophe Honoré I have seen and I must say I felt as confused after watching "Non ma fille tu n'iras pas danser" as I had been three years before while I was leaving the theater showing 'Dans Paris'. In 2006, I had not really understood the deeper motives of Paul and of his brother Jonathan, the main characters of "Dans Paris". Nor do I identify now with Léna, the main protagonist of "Non ma fille, tu n'iras pas danser", with her sister Frédérique, her brother Gulven, her parents Annie and Michel. Is it me or has Honoré been unable to examine the behavior of his characters reliably enough?
What I can say after viewing these two films is that on the one hand there is obvious consistency in the choice of themes: both movies deal with an unwanted family gathering; family relationships; dysfunctional couples; the difficulty to come to terms with the real person in you; depression; the looming ghost of death. The tone in the two films is comparable as well: moody bordering on desperation with flashes of burlesque. On the other hand, the two films have the same weak points as far as the narrative is concerned. In 'Dans Paris', Romain Duris broods for hours while Louis Garrel endlessly wanders round Paris. To be fair, there is a little more to it, but just about. 'Non ma fille' has a more interesting plot: Lena, who just can't live with Nigel, her husband, any more because he cheats on her, leaves the marital home in Paris with her two children and takes refuge at her parents' house in Brittany. There, she tries to reconstruct her life, having to fight against her family members, who feel entitled to control her life. But despite this exciting starting point, I could never really relate to the film or sympathize with any of the characters, except maybe with the most consistent of them all, Nigel, who, granted, is an unfaithful husband, but who is prepared to do anything for the sake of his children. I think in fact that consistency (or rather the lack of it) is the key word accounting for my dissatisfaction with this film. For if there IS consistency BETWEEN "Dans Paris" and "Non ma fille" there is actually NO consistency WITHIN either of them. "Dans Paris" amounts to a more or less random series of sequences: a secondary character speaking into the camera telling us he will be the narrator; a very theatrical breakup scene; Romain Duris singing badly to a Kim Wilde CD; Jonathan taking half an hour of the film heading to the Bon Marché, screwing three chicks in the meantime; Romain Duris moping for even longer; a very amusing scene featuring Guy Marchand, the father, and Marie-France Pisier, a botched ending, and that is about all. The same inconsistencies plague the second film. For instance, fifteen minutes or so into the film, Michel, the father becomes the narrator - but for one sequence only; when the magpie saved by Lena at the request of her kids dies, she buries it in a panic but the subject is never tackled again; at a time we learn that Michel suffers from a serious illness but there will be no more allusion to this fact; in most sequences Michel and Annie (the parents) quarrel and seem to hate each other's guts while in others they make love like youthful lovers and share a real complicity; the narration is interrupted by an ancient Breton tale featuring a young woman who causes the death of her suitors(what is it supposed to mean: Lena is considered by others as a witch? Lena IS a witch?); we never know what Frédérique blames her husband for, she keeps saying she will have a divorce before announcing by the end of the film that she does not want a divorce after all ; and so on and so on.
How can you have sympathy (or antipathy) for characters that are so poorly delineated? You can't actually. You remain unconcerned and little by little you become bored first and annoyed as time goes by.
Even worse is the director's pretension: in each shot, he makes you feel how important the subject is, how admirable his (and co-writer Geneviève Brisac's) rebellious Lena is. To my mind, a little more modesty and a little more hard work on the continuity would have been welcome.
Nevertheless "Non ma fille tu n'iras pas danser" is not a complete failure, 'Dans Paris' was not either. For both films are saved by their actors: Guy Marchand and Marie-France Pisier were exceptional in the 2006 movie. And in "Non ma fille" the whole cast is to be congratulated. Chiara Mastroianni - it goes without saying - gives a remarkably dedicated performance as Lena. She really sinks into her part, even if the character she embodies is fairly irritating and if she cries too much in the last part (but Christophe Honoré is to be blamed for that, not her). And if there is one thing the filmmaker can be credited for, it is his love for aging actors and actresses, somewhat forgotten or little known: it is indeed a pleasure to see Marie-Christine Barrault on the big screen again and she is really excellent as Lena's possessive mother. Face to her, Fred Ulysse (mainly a stage actor) gives an amazingly natural performance. And Julien Honoré, the director's brother, is a discovery as Lena's joking (but not so sympathetic) brother.
There are also some nice views of Brittany, the native region of Christophe Honoré. But these qualities do not save such an ill-written film from boredom. It seems to me Christophe Honoré makes too many films too fast. Let him follow the example of Claude Sautet. Sautet, who was not the prolific kind, could have made this film. The only difference is that it would have been ... made to perfection.
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