The Alliance Française French Film Festival is running in Melbourne from 8th March – 30 March and our writer in Australia will be covering a selection of the movies being shown. AFFFF is the biggest festival of French films outside of France and you can see the program and book tickets here.
Overview: A father/son pair of farmers go on a tour of French wine country and try to bond along the way. Le Pacte; 2016; 101 mins.
Wine: Saint Amour is a movie about fatherhood, the future, and wine. It is a road trip movie that occasionally turns into a sex comedy, while maintaining a sweetness that makes the three idiot main characters likable and watchable. The film follows Jean and Bruno, a pair of cow farmers. Bruno has become tired of the farming life and just wants to work at a garden centre and get drunk. Bruno’s father Jean, in an effort to build bridges with his son, decides to hire a driver and take Bruno on a tour of France’s wine country. What follows is a feast of drunkenness, debauchery, wine, women, and weirdos.
Colour: Saint Amour is an immensely funny film, with jokes coming at you constantly. The writers/directors use all the weapons in their arsenal and gives you one liners, sight gags, verbal gags, slapstick, gross out gags, sex jokes, body humour, jokes that make you wonder if you should be laughing at them, sweet jokes, and a wide assortment of eccentric weirdos populating the cast. Saint Amour is a movie that makes you want to visit France but not talk to anyone while you’re there. Every character in this movie has some manner of oddness about them, whether it’s the B&B owner with the strange sleeping arrangements or the waitress that takes men back to her room so she can vent to them about France’s economic woes. Every character is heightened to wring the most humour out of them, but handled in a subtle way so that none of the odd side characters comes close to overshadowing the three leads.
Gravity: Along with the intense joke-to-scene ratio, there is also a throughline of sentimentality. The writers/directors, Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern, manage to balance the tones so that the sweetness isn’t in conflict with the humour at any point but feels like something natural. Saint Amour isn’t one of those movies where the drunken comedy grinds to an aggressive halt for a lesson about family. The sentimental scenes, which are mostly carried by Gérard Depardieu as Jean, are handled with a light touch and usually sandwiched between jokes to keep the humour constantly moving.
Overall: Delépine and Kervern walk a tonal tightrope with this movie as it has a soft, gooey, caramel centre surrounded by a hard crust of jokes that wouldn’t feel like an outsiders in an American Pie movie. The filmmakers keep a firm hand on things though and manages to make the sweetness feel earned rather than being like the end of an episode of Family Guy when Peter, having spent twenty minutes making fart jokes, says “I learned something today about the importance of family.” In the end with Saint Amour, you get a gorgeous story of fathers and sons and you also get to laugh until you can’t breathe, which is no small feat.
Featured Image: Le Pacte