Saturday, October 29, 2016

French movie Friday: Dans la cour

How do you take the theme of mid-life depression and anguish and turn it into an intimate little film with sweetness and truth? Ask Pierre Salvadori, who's in fine form here. 

After having watched his matchless Hors de prix a couple of times, I'd decided to watch more films of his. I can't quite review that earlier one though, because the review would come out too sappy. I just liked it too much, enough to re-watch it and keep re-watching well into the future. Well, then. 

Dans la cour is altogether more earthly. So earthly in fact, that true to its title we get to see little besides the eponymous courtyard. But because it is Paris and the building itself is quite old, even a plain old courtyard has its charms. This is where Antoine, a musician who one days walks out of his entire life, ends up as the janitor, or 'le gardien' officially. He mumbles and shrugs his way into the job, somewhat hastily hired by the energetic resident Mathilde who is in charge of all such building affairs, among many other things. 

Mathilde and Antoine slowly develop a hesitant friendship. The other residents meanwhile, run somewhat roughshod over Antoine: his inability to be assertive being an advantage for all. Poor Antoine and his travails! He ends up being clouted with a ripe peach from four floors up, hosts a very large dog in his tiny apartment, endures the ravings of a cult member, and suffers from severe physical problems when he partakes of the drugs offered by one resident. 

Still, all is not misery, somehow, even though everyone has their own version of kookiness going on. These stories are the kind to be found if we scratched beneath the surface of just about anyone's life, anywhere. Meanwhile, Mathilde's slow unraveling is given the most attention by Antoine. This is not remotely about romance or the usual attraction though; rather, it is a slow drawing together of souls caught in the terror of realizing that they are really, really lost, and are on the brink of losing hope altogether. 

Antoine does show a bit of assertiveness towards the end of the story, and then...the ending left me sad and wondering if there could have been other possibilities for him. Still, this is not a bad thing. The whole film has after all been created with a sense of unerring reality, however tenderly. Depression, middle-age depression at that, is still poorly understood and vastly under-diagnosed. In fact, after learning that a friend who recently passed away had in fact been depressed, this  movie hit home rather hard. 

Dans la cour is a gently-paced and lovingly detailed piece of life. I'll have to be on the lookout for more from this director.

Director: Pierre Salvadori
Overall rating: 7.5/10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I liked the addition of the rating...and the fact that this deals with mid-life is most appropriate at this time in my life. I crave the simple and sincere...maybe a job as a janitor in a beautiful courtyard is just what I need.

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