Folies Bergére (2014)
It’s never to late to live a little.
From French director Marc Fitoussi, Copacabana (2010), comes the story of Brigitte Lecanu (Isabelle Huppert), a 50-something cattle breeder’s wife from rural France. Disenchanted with her mundane daily routine on the farm — which she and her husband Xavier (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) have created for themselves — and longing for some variety and spice in her life, Brigitte attends a trendy upbeat party, held by a group of students visiting the adjoining property. Propelled by the possibility of an affair with a young stud muffin, Brigitte heads to Paris — under the guise of a doctor’s appointment — in the hope of temporarily being swept away from her tedious life. After initially falling flat, Brigitte allows herself to be taken by a Dutch man, Jesper (Michael Nyqvist), who promptly whisks her away and enchants her with the beauty of Paris.
When it comes to Folies Bergére — also known as La ritournelle in France or Paris Follies in most foreign markets — what you see is essentially what you get as we are, yet again, presented with a ‘generic’ love story centered in and around Paris. From the onset, it’s obvious that director Fitoussi tries so desperately to surprise or give viewers a refreshing look at the city of love, but Folies Bergére falters a majority of the time, as the flick sticks familiarly close to the same Parisian romance we’ve seen come out of Hollywood time and time again.
What’s more, Folies Bergére tries to be a ‘perfect’ love story, with our protagonist — an ‘average’ woman — being charmed by a suave, sophisticated, salt ‘n’ pepper haired Dutch man. He surprises her and treats her the way ‘every woman wants to be treated,’ setting off smoke alarms whilst talking to her about his wife and dead child; how romantic! There isn’t really such a thing as a spoiler when it comes to Folies Bergére either, as the film doesn’t contain ‘plot points,’ instead events are hinted and expanded on later, aiding in our protagonist’s soul search. One such example is Brigitte’s eczema, which appears to be a defining characteristic, ‘limiting her from reaching her potential’ early on in the feature, but is quickly forgotten, and then pops up suddenly in a very odd situation. The film also tries to ‘sex it up,’ but the key relationship is fleeting and empty, with a solid lead-up and expectations eventually falling flat. Ultimately, the message behind the film is a sort of ‘this is life, and life goes on’ kind of thing, unfortunately, the story does not lend itself to this philosophy and longs to be deeper and more meaningful in all aspects.
Great entertainers can’t save an average film; hence there are no outstanding performances in Folies Bergére. However, the picture’s cast have squeezed sufficient life out of a mediocre script with each demonstrating exceptional skills adding real color and depth to what could have been meaningless/ two-dimensional characters. Jean-Pierre Darroussin, A Very Long Engagement (2004), who plays Xavier, Brigitte’s less than enthusiastic husband is particularly memorable, adding variety, humor and a genuine warmth to an otherwise stable and uneventful story.
Director Marc Fitoussi, once again sticks to realism with a touch of mild humor, presenting a morally tough situation for our main characters. Fitoussi and lead Isabelle Huppert, Amour (2012), have worked together previously and the two obviously mesh well, with the role of Brigitte being written specifically for Huppert as Fitoussi simply wanted to work with the actress again, giving her a different persona to what she was accustomed to playing. Research was also undertaken within the script to ensure authenticity in the world of cattle breading and whilst this is a different role for Huppert — a warm and fun mother figure — the simplistic and predictable narrative was in no way a challenge for the actress. At the end of the day, Folies Bergére isn’t a necessarily bad film, it’s incredibly average; with a basic story and standard cinematography there is nothing that makes Folies Bergére the enchanting experience it aims to be.
2.5 / 5 – Alright
Reviewed by Kathryn Snowball
Folies Bergére is released through Palace Films Australia