La Belle Epoque (2019) ****

November 19th, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Nicolas Bedos; Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Guillaume Canet, Doria Tillier, Fanny Ardant, Pierre Arditi; France 2019, 115 min.

Nicolas Bedos has set his stall out writing light-hearted and clever dramas. He follows his popular debut Mr. & Mrs. Adelman with this well-crafted and rather old-fashioned screwball comedy that sees a disgruntled 60-something man revisit his past to discover why he fell in love with his wife in the first place.

Parisians Victor (Auteuil) and Marianne (Ardant) have been married for forty years. But their marriage has hit the skids due to Victor’s disillusionment with life after losing his job as a newspaper cartoonist. Psychologist Marianne has also lost her mojo. She treats her patients like objects on a conveyer belt, and only looks forward to riding in her self-driving Tesla car. Their two sons are very much in step with their millennial generation. But even they are shocked when Marianne tells them that she has a new lover (who predictably is only interested in a place live). Victor gets the bums rush.

As this point Bedos adopts a similar premise to Herzog in his Family Romance, LLC. Victor calls on family friend Antoine (Canet), who runs a stage company organising time travel for a range of wealthy clients. You can explore the era of Marie Antoinette or even reinvent yourself as Hitler. So Victor opts to be beamed back to the Lyon of 1974, when he first fell for his wife, played by young Margot (Tillier), who is also in an on-off relationship with the unfaithful Antoine. While ‘directing’ behind the scenes, Antoine is well aware that Victor is falling for his own lover. The script dictates they go to bed on day four, but Antoine makes sure this date is never reached.

Always inventive, DoP Nicolas Bedos creates delightful scenes in front and behind the camera, very much in the style of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off. The prompting alone is hair-raising, and Antoine gets into such a bad mood that he immediately replaces actors who fall foul of his directions. And since it is France, the actors performing the orgy scene, are only too happy to do some unpaid overtime. It is a chaos of situations and emotions, and although Bedos brings nothing new to the party Belle Epoche is a lively and enjoyable comedy. AS

NOW ON RELEASE FROM 22 NOVEMBER 2019

    

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