2019 TIFF Movie Review: LA VERITE (THE TRUTH) (France/Japan 2019)

The Truth Poster

About a stormy reunion between a daughter and her actress mother, Catherine, against the backdrop of Catherine’s latest role in a sci-fi picture as a mother who never grows old.


Hirokazu Koreeda


Hirokazu KoreedaLéa Le Dimna (adaptation)

Japanese director Kore-eda’s (AFTER LIFE, THE SHOPLIFTERS. LIKE FATHER LIKE SON) first foray into a film shooting France in French with French stars outside his homeland of Japan sees mother and daughter played by Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche.  The pair come together after the mum, an actress of many films has written her memoirs in whcih she is the ideal mother.  

Daughter comes to town with husband played by Ethan Hawke and daughter in tow.  Family resentments and the past re-surfaces.  The film also comments on art imitating life.  The film feels and comes off as total fluff with a few amusing lines, particularly those written for Deneuve. 

 Hawke is not given much to do and it shows.  Kore-eda looks totally out of place in this really mediocre work from an artist who can do much. much better.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEVedePfqlY

Film Review: BELLE DE JOUR (France 1968) ****

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Belle de Jour Poster

A frigid young housewife decides to spend her midweek afternoons as a prostitute.


Luis Buñuel (as Luis Bunuel)


Joseph Kessel (novel) (as Joseph Kessel de l’Académie Française), Luis Buñuel(adaptation) (as Luis Bunuel) | 1 more credit »


BELLE DE JOUR begins innocently with a open horse carriage moving leisurely in the countryside driven by two horsemen.  The camera reveals a couple (Jean Sorel and Catherine Deneuve) seated at the back exchanging love talk.  “I love you so much,” and the retort, “I love you more.”  But when he kisses her, he finds her very cold.  The carriage is stopped and he drags her to a tree and strings her up to be whipped by the two horsemen.  Why this sudden brutality?

It is a disturbing sequence that turns out to be a nightmare as the girl wakes up in bed with her apparent husband.

The film returns to the main life of the couple, Severine and her husband Pierre, a surgeon.  It turns out that she is frigid in their sexual relationship though she is turned on sexually by other things.  The film hints that the problem could have arisen from sexual abuse when she was a child.  Severin is accosted by her husband’s friend, Husson (Michel Piccoli) who is described as rich and idle, his two weaknesses.  Severine spurns his advances.

Two things make BELLE DE JOUR intriguing.  One is the mystery element.  Director Bunuel plays on the audience’s curiosity, or sexual curiosity, which is even more powerful.  Severine learns of a girl Henriette who sells herself as a whore at a nearby house, which eventually prompts her to become the BELLE DE JOUR, a woman of the day as she sells her services during the day instead of the night.  The other element is Bunuel’s expertise at surrealism.  Bunuel famous for his surreal films like L’AGE DOR, THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE and THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY plays this film where reality seems a fantasy and vice versa.  The sexual favours desired by Belle de Jour’s clients are not always involving intercourse.  One sequence has the client get off with his face being stepped on by his girl.  The very idea of a very bored housewife (Deneuve) serving clients every afternoon is in itself quite surreal.

There is much to fascinate besides the film’s sexual content.  One is the study of the characters, why each behave the way they do.  The other is the period piece, set in the past when one assumes sex is more controlled.  Which is not the case.

Deneuve looks totally glamorous as her wardrobe was designed by none other than Yves Saint Laurent.

BELLE DE JOUR shot many of its actors to fame, not to mention Catherine Deneuve.  Pierre Clementi won recognition as the extremely jealous gangster client, Marcel and went on to work after this film with the world’s best directors.  He is unforgettable in Bertolucci’s THE CONFORMIST.  Michel Piccoli again plays the role of another weirdo.

Not to give away any spoilers, the tim has many twists in the story including a happy fantasy-type ending that should please audiences.  

BELLE DE JOUR would have likely been seen already by many a cinephile.  But it is still interesting a watch a second time around as one-to-one can not be expected to remember everything about the film.  BELLE DE JOUR is re-released in a 4K restoration print for a special  engagement run beginning this week at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5oqTzcpfZw

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Film Review: SAGE FEMME (THE MIDWIFE) (France 2017) ***

The Midwife Poster

A midwife gets unexpected news from her father’s old mistress.


Martin Provost


Martin Provost (dialogue), Martin Provost (screenplay)


A film with babies being brought into the world?  One cannot imagine a more euphoric subject.

Martin Provost is a French film director not that well known in North America as his films, as is the case of many French films, do not get distribution.  It is a sad thing as his film SERAPHINE that won the Cesar for Best Film and for him sharing the Best Screenplay never got here either.  I was fortunate to catch it at the Toronto International Film Festival and it is good to see a film of his SAGE FEMME finally released.

It is nothing more than spectacular to see two of my favourite French actress together in the same film.  Both Catherine Frot and Catherine Deneuve (the great Catherines) – and I can watch them forever.  Frot (the younger one), allows Deneuve to take the spotlight whenever they appear on screen together as obvious in the restaurant scene where Deneuve freaks out while Frot remains composed.

Claire (Frot) is a midwife at a Paris hospital.  In her 40’s, her life has become monotonous  and routine even though she has the exciting task of delivering babies.  Into  her life suddenly arrives Beartrice (Deneuve) who is diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Though dying, she wants to live.  The two are complete opposites.  While Claire is a vegetarian and no-drinker, Beartrice downs bottles of wine while indulging in red meat.  Beatrice is the woman Claire’s father left her mother for.  Beatrice wants closure – to make things right.  Claire initially wants noting to do with her but eventually succumbs.  Frot and Deneuve exhibit good chemistry playing contrasting confrontational personalities.  It is this chemistry that makes the film work, despite the simple plot covered by lame subplots like Claire’s son (dropping out of school; his pregnant girlfriend), Beatrice’s gambling and other bad habits and the hospital affairs.

As the subject is the midwife who delvers babies at a hospital, the film necessarily shows several of the deliveries of the just born.  It is very obvious that director Provost always hides the side of the bay and mother so that the umbilical cord cannot be seen, or that would mean the delivery of a real baby.

Though Deneuve is in her senior years, Provost does not even for once fall into the trap of cliched films about old farts.  Deneuve’s old character is portrayed as a mother dying of a brain tumour.  There is no scene of her reliving her young days, or trying to have sex or fall in love again.

Provost succeeds in the balancing comedy and drama.  Deneuve provides most of the comedy and Frot the drama.

The film suffers from a predictable plot.  It does not take a genius to guess that Beartrice will teach Claire how to live life and that Claire will eventually succumb to the charms of her suitor (Olivier Gourmet).

SAGE FEMME is a pleasant enough melodrama that will not win any awards but still should be seen for its two stars Denueve and Frot.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_FLOFTvqdQ

Happy Birthday: Catherine Deneuve

catherinedeneuve.jpgCatherine Deneuve

Born: October 22, 1943 in Paris, France

I’m not always the nicest person to meet, because I forget very easily that I’m an actress when I’m not working. I live very normally, I go out with my friends, we go to the movies, I queue, we go to restaurants. Then if something happens to remind me that I’m an actress then I become a little different and things become a little heavy. I like the advantages; I know it’s not right but I like being famous when it’s convenient for me and completely anonymous when it’s not.


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