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  Looking for Hortense French Twist
Year: 2012
Director: Pascal Bonitzer
Stars: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Isabelle Carré, Kristin Scott Thomas, Marin Orcand Tourrès, Claude Rich, Arthur Igual, Jackie Berroyer, Jérôme Beaujour, Philippe Duclos, Benoît Jacquot, Masahiro Kashiwagi, Iliana Lolitch, Francis Leplay, Joséphine Derenne
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Damien Hauer (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is a lecturer in East Asian studies, but he doesn't know what his partner Iva (Kristin Scott Thomas) has been up to recently. He is aware that she has been directing one of her plays, that's her job, but unaware that her leading man Antoine (Arthur Igual) gave her a lift home from the theatre last night which put her in a difficult position when the younger man gave her a big kiss on the lips, hoping she would get the message and want to take it further. She hasn't yet, but Damien has something else to occupy his thoughts, the small matter of an immigration problem...

Looking for Hortense was one of those French films, or more specifically one of those Parsien films, which made you wonder if the nouvelle vague had happened at all: upper middle class white people problems which might as well have been a chamber piece on the stage? Where was the imperative that this should be made into a movie at all? Did all those students riot against the bourgeoisie in vain? Well, of course there was an audience for such things, and they were more than happy to watch the kind of issues which could have furrowed their own brows in real life essayed on the big screen.

While this might have seemed to appeal to a specific number of Paris citizens and pretty much nobody else, such was the veneer of sophistication which co-writer and director Pascal Bonitzer applied to his tale that there were certain pockets of moviegoers across the world who thought, yes, there's a lifestyle I'd like to dip into, maybe as a tourist, maybe as a way of finding out what it was like. Although the characters had their problems, and those problems might not be what most could relate to, you rarely had the impression that there was anything here that would not work itself out given enough time and patience. Not that you were impatient with this, it was very easy to lose yourself in.

Veteran actor Bacri played our "hero", except nobody in the story thinks of him in such a role; they do at first, when they believe he has stepped into a deportation threat from a best friend of Iva's brother's girlfriend (are you following this?) and secured a guarantee from his father Sebastien (even more veteran actor Claude Rich) who is a civil servant with influence over such things. The trouble being, the old geezer is drunk with power in the most genteel manner, so enjoys giving people the bureaucratic runaround if it means he can flex his muscles of influence, still with that placid, polite exterior, but within there is beating a heart of ice and if that means he can still frustrate his son so much the better.

In one of those movie coincidences, Damien has actually met and struck up a passing friendship with the best friend in question, one Aurore (Isabelle Carré) who is about as French as its possible to get to all outward appearances, but she's actually a Serb born to East European parents some years before. Adding heartache, she and her friend think he has succeeded in his attempts to keep her in the country, which he never finds a good opportunity to contradict until it's too late and his reputation is sent down the drain, though not before Iva is sent packing from their swish apartment when he realises what she's been doing behind his back. This might sound like the basis for a comedy of manners, and it would be if it was funny, except the way it unfolds is closer to a drama; there are a few laughs, but mostly Damien's plight is less than hilarious and that includes the scene where he thinks he's had drunken sex with the waiter who brought him home after he drowned his sorrows. So diverting enough, nicely handled, sweet ending, but somehow a little slight. Music by Aleksey Aygi.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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