aka JE RENTRE A LA MAISON
Movie Review by Alice Castle
Starring: Michel Piccoli, Antoine Chapey, John Malkovich, Catherine Deneuve, Leonor Baldaque
Director: Manoel De Oliveira
Michel Piccoli plays a respected theatre actor in Paris – Gilbert Valence. He’s the product of an age where people respected each other and where artists were passionate about their professions. Valence is a man of the theatre and shuns lucrative roles on television or cinema. People sometimes stop him in the street to ask for his autograph, but he doesn’t appear to be a man consumed by ego. On leaving the stage one evening Valence is told that his family, bar one grandchild Serge, have been killed in an accident and the rest of the film follows him in the period after his loss.
Portuguese Director Manoel de Oliveira captures the mood beautifully – long, lingering shots create Valence’s Paris – where precious moments are spent in the ritual of morning coffee and a quick skimming of ‘Liberation’ before heading off to the theatre. Joyful awakenings by his young grandson before school – and plenty of time to stand back and watch the world. Valence is the kind of man who takes pleasure in purchasing hand-made brown leather brogues. The film feels like a vignette – a short story about loss and age, and the way people fall out of rhythm with the rest of the world. Valence tries to listen to the advice of his agent, who worries about him becoming more and more isolated – but Valence is not interested in the young actresses his agent sends as distractions. But when film director John Malkovich turns up in Valence’s agent’s office asking if the actor will play a role in his new movie – Valence agrees, despite his misgivings – and only having three days to prepare for an English speaking role.
Michel Piccoli is a remarkable actor, and cameos by John Malkovich and Catherine Deneuve cement the pedigree of de Oliveira’s film.