Dir.: Elise Girard; Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Tsuyoshi Ihara, August Diehl; France, Japan, Switzerland, Germany; 95 min. 2023
Sidonie in Japan is rather a wan ghost story about loss and the healing powers of love. It all looks rather gorgeous and Isabelle Huppert keeps us intrigued with her star quality right through to the end.
She plays Sidonie Percival a French writer has been suffering from writer’s block since her husband Antoine (Diehl), a major influence, dies in a car accident. During a book tour in Osaka she embarks on an affair with her publisher Kenzo Mizoguchi (Ihara) who has ended his loveless marriage. But the past seems to haunt them both, particularly Sidonie, until Antoine’s shadowy ghost finally ‘wanders off to the other side”. It’s unclear whether Antoine has re-appeared to tell Sidonie to write again,but he soon vanishes for good leaving Sidonie and Kenzo free to get to know each other on their way to Nara, Kyoto and the wondrous island of Naoshina.
Much is made of Sidonie’s frist book “L’Ombre Portee”, The carried Shadow”, which is sort of auto-realism in the vain of Marguerite Duras.
The film is driven forward by wonderful widescreen visuals, the minimalist script taking a back seat. Huppert takes the lead, just as she’s always done since first appearing on the festival circuit in in Alain Tanner’s 1968 The middle of the World. Since then, Huppert has carried a whole host of minor features saving them from oblivion, and Sidonie, outstaying its welcome even at 95 minutes, is no exception with its likeable if underwhelming characters all on ‘adagio non troppo’.
There are no barbs here so Huppert has to inject tempo herself, and she succeeds against the ponderous script and its meanderings. In the end Sidonie leaves the audience in a bind: clearly Girard has talent, writing here with Maud Amelia and Sophie Fillieres, but script lacks polish and needs finessing. AS
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL | GIORNATE DEGLI AUTORI 2023