Pretty cool what a wonderful double-feature the two films I watched yesterday and today at the Independent Film Festival in Boston turned out to be. Yday’s film was a day in the life of the Yokoyama family and today’s film was a few days in the life of the Berthier family. Both are reminiscent of Ozu and both deal with a lot of the same themes – the bittersweet nature of being with/around family, the relationship between parents and children and the one between siblings, the cycle of life and so on. The Assayas film raises some broader issues as well, about globalization, about whether the concept of “home” even exists in our times, about art and whether or not it belongs in a museum and so on. And it examines all this in a totally personal and intimate way. A lot about this film also reminded me of Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale from last year (which I also loved) and I think it’s pretty cool how similar and yet how different the two films are. While the Desplechin film has a fair bit of drama (from what I remember anyway) and feels somewhat tense throughout, this film is calm and even in the moments where you think it might get dramatic, it quickly settles back down to a really natural rhythm.
Like Still Walking, this is yet another realistic and compassionate portrait of a family. Not a typical family (this one has the fragments of broken Degas sculptures tied up in grocery bags) but whose concerns seem totally universal. There were several scenes in the film where I couldn’t help thinking that if I didn’t know these actors from other films (Juliette Binoche and that boy who plays Paul in A Christmas Tale), I could quite easily pretend that it’s documentary footage from a real family.
I haven’t watched anything else by Assayas but am really eager to now. Something about the way this film is made feels so assured and mature to me. Several scenes stand out — the scene where the Musee D’Orsay folks are going around the house examining stuff, the scene where the housekeeper Eloise comes back to the house and sees that everything has been taken away and the final party scene with the loud music and the camera simply moving around letting us explore the surroundings — all really great. Amazing performances too.
As of now, I think I liked Still Walking slightly more than I liked this one but I am very eager to rewatch both and extremely glad I made it to these films.
Edit: Forgot to mention two things. 1.) the film has a pretty great sountrack and 2.) It also reminded of Flight of the Red Balloon beyond just the Musee D’Orsay connection