More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (2011) is a sort of fable for our time*, with strikingly strong performances, both from (as Michel) Jean-Pierre Darroussin (whom I knew from Conversations with my Gardener (2007)), and Ariane Ascaride as Marie-Claire, a couple whose integrity and good hearts are at its centre.
Subject to an event that leaves all shaken, but especially Marie-Claire's sister Denise (Marilyne Canto is very sympathetic), the course of things unfolds in a manner consistent with not only justice, but also responsibility and reconciliation, almost a modern Dostoyevsky, I often enough felt (which maybe Victor Hugo, a poem of whose is the film's starting-point, and he had in common).
Certainly, although The Angels' Share (2012) is equally good natured and hopeful, this film makes a challenge to our thoughts and prejudices far beyond it: this film treats of its themes seriously, whereas Loach launches into a romp from whose end the dark and threatening scenes from earlier seem far removed - director Robert Guédiguian has sketched a world that acknowledges deep-seated human emotions of envy, resentment and greed, but wants to offer those who feel them a way back.
The centre is the family, whether a party for Michel and Marie-Claire (to which he has invited the other nineteen whose posts were made redundant at the same time as his), them playing cards with Denise and her husband Raoul (a good part for Gérard Meylan), or at the home of their son Gilles and his partner / wife, and the tensions, more or less freely articulated, between them because of their differing viewpoints: in Leigh's Glasgow, the family has little or nothing to offer any more.
Guédiguian answered questions after the screening, and some (as well as some observations from the audience) were of a rather political or judgemental nature, as if depicting certain truths, rather than presenting a story, were the film's purpose. As he sought to stress, cinema is not reality, and the Internet was not there because a screen is not that inetersting, and the focus was elsewhere.
I asked about the use of Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défuncte, which is a beautiful theme, both thoughtful and with a hint of real, not over-blown, sadness to it: he did not comment on that theme in particular, but that, classical or otherwise, the music is fitted early in the editing and has to be what belongs. Later, I aked about the Hemingway novel with the same titles as this film, assuming that there was no connection, as the origins appeared in a song sung at the anniversary party. This was apparently a very popular song in the 60s, and Guédiguian did not comment on whether the Hemingway associations carried any regrettable or deliberate overtones.
* To quote a title of Tames Thurber's.
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