La tête en friche (My Afternoons with Margueritte)

Poster for La tête en friche (My Afternoons with Margueritte)

Winter 2011 Features series

Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 4:00pm
Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by Jean Becker

Screenplay by Jean Becker and Jean-Loup Dabadie

Based on the book by Marie-Sabine Roger

Starring Gérard Depardieu, Gisèle Casadesus, Maurane, Patrick Bouchitey

Rated PG · 1h 22m
French, Flemish

View trailer

La tête en friche (My Afternoons with Margueritte)

“The French title of Jean Becker’s film, La tête en friche, roughly means a fallow head, ripe for planting. The head in question belongs to Germain (Gérard Depardieu) an unmarried bumpkin in dungarees who is teased by his acquaintances for his lack of schooling, though – typically French – he’s not such a loser that he doesn’t have lovely young bus-driver girlfriend Annette (Sophie Guillemin).

“The film is essentially a love story, but it’s not so much about that particular relationship, nor about the one between the man-mountain and his brassy chain-smoking mother, whose careless, sometimes cruel approach to child-rearing is shown in flashback. It’s more about the affection which springs up between him and Margueritte, a sharp-witted and extremely well-read nonagenarian he meets and gets to know in the park.

“Margueritte is played by Gisèle Casadesus, a spry and still beautiful 96-year-old veteran who made her film debut in 1934 in Marcel L’Herbier’s L’aventurier, and one of the pleasures of Becker’s film is being able to feast your eyes on a face like hers, which has an entire lifetime etched into its lines. Like all such movie bonding between ostensibly mismatched characters, their relationship is a two-way street – she encourages him to work on his shaky reading skills by getting him interested in Albert Camus and Romain Gary, while he…

But that would be giving too much away.

“Suffice to say, while this tugs shamelessly at the heartstrings and occasionally indulges in a sort of wishful thinking which strains credibility, it never descends into Driving Miss Daisy-style pathos. The love story is not just about the close friendship between Germain and Margueritte, but about the love of reading and literature in general. Which is nice, because it’s not often that one comes across films extolling the joys of literacy.

“Director and co-screenwriter Becker is the son of film-making legend Jacques Becker, one of only a very few members of the French “old guard” whose films were accorded a measure of respect by proponents of the New Wave, who in the late 1950s derisively dismissed all the rest as, “le cinéma de papa”.

“Becker fils has sporadically nudged the outside of the envelope of respectability. But more recently, with Les enfants du marais, (Conversations with My Gardener), and now My Afternoons with Margueritte, he also seems to be perfecting a latterday variation on “cinéma de papa”, celebrating traditional France, its unspoiled countryside, old-fashioned film-making values and status quo. Cultivons notre jardin, indeed.” Anne Billson, theartsdesk