Les Amandiers, France/Italy 2022.
Directed by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, screenplay by Noémie Lvovsky, Caroline Deruas-Garrel, and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi.
To start on an an upbeat note, the actors were enjoyable to watch and managed to walk the fine line between bringing some serious overacting across without coming across as overacting. (Actors playing actors has its own rich bouquet of challenges.)
Everything else, however, was a huge pile of mush. There was no plot to speak of; the script meandered from one loosely biographical acting school trope to the next; not one of the few reveals managed to make its foreshadowing really count; and everything else was perfectly predictable because it’s been told or staged or filmed so often before. Then, while the actors did their best for two hours and five minutes to do French things, the charm/flavor/aesthetic—however you want to call it—of French auteur cinema was made spongy and squishy and bland through an overabundance of cardboard Italian tropes on the one hand and an overabundance of cardboard American tropes during pointless trips to New York on the other.
More mush piled on cinematically. Ostensibly set in the late 1980s, both the diegetic music and the fake “film stock” added in post fell firmly into the first half of the 1970s without even a hint of 1980s aesthetics. (And no, the movie was not shot on 35mm film but digitally with an Arri Alexa Mini; apparently, not every critic’s privy to the difference between 35mm film stock and 35 format CMOS sensors.) The cinematography was at times really good and at times really sloppy. The cut was good or very good throughout with respect to shot transitions, but scene transitions, as a rule, left you standing outside in the rain to wonder if you’ve missed the bus.
The German subtitle set was perfectly followable and seemed okay. (I can’t really tell; my few French lessons of yore have long since evaporated.)
Finally, the impeccably vacuous and painfully overused English title “Forever Young” does actually live up to the film, if you think of it. The German title—no I’m not making this up—is also “Forever Young,” because, well, Germany.
French newspapers had reported earlier this year, which I didn’t know until after I wrote this review, that the male lead had been indicted on charges of sexual abuse and domestic violence, after which all kinds of reactions ensued in France. Some theaters pulled the movie from their programs; the Film Academy de-listed the male lead from their César Awards; the cast accused the director of having known about it all along and keeping it under wraps during filming; and the director herself reacted to all that in the worst possible way. Yikes.
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