lunedì 11 febbraio 2013


Un homme et une femme à Paris, la nuit.
These few words would be enough to describe the movie After, by Géraldine Maillet, that I saw the other night in my favourite Parisian cinema, the Ciné Studio 28.
I read a couple of articles about this movie and I immediately decided not to miss it, because - as I often write in this blog - I like movies made of few elements. I’m much in love with films made without spending millions of euros and where there’s almost nothing going on. They are the most challenging ones, and I’m convinced cinema is still an amazing and fascinating art especially because of this kind of films.

Julie et Guillaume are perfect strangers. They meet one rainy night in an empty Japanese restaurant: she looks sad and nervous, he looks immediately attracted by her. She can’t find a taxi to go home, he offers her a lift with his motorbike, she reluctantly accepts. They stop at a jazzy bar but she doesn’t look at ease. She leaves and she goes home by taxi. Guillaume follows her: he asks her to spend together the hours until dawn, going around Paris, even if “she is not free” (Julie has a wedding ring). The film is the account of these hours.

Movies like After can be very risky: if the screenplay is not good, if the dialogues sound fake, if the actors are not talented, forget about it. You can’t do a movie like this unless you’re really sure of the tone you want to give to your images, the atmosphere you want to create and the feelings you want to provoke in the audience.
Géraldine Maillet, a novelist with a past as top-model, is brave enough to have chosen this kind of story for her first long-métrage (she already made two short movies). The film-maker, who came to talk to the public after the projection, said she wrote the film having in mind Julie Gayet as the woman and Jocelyn Quivrin as the man. When Quivrin tragically died in a car accident in 2009, she found herself in trouble and she had a lot to go through before achieving what she had in mind (she talked about this adventure in a book called "What Tarantino would have done at my place?").

Filmed rigorously at night in 6 weeks and in chronological order, After has a dark and sombre quality. Will the meeting of these two strangers be a happy one? Good and bad things come and go as in a roller coaster, and the public follow quite mesmerized the erratic movements of the two main characters in a city that is far away from the post-card look of, let’s say, Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen. Here there’s another movie that can be taken as a first reference, and it is Extérieur, Nuit by Jacquel Bral, a 1980 movie with Gérard Lanvin, André Dussolier and Christine Boisson (Maillet said that she would have loved to title the film exactly like this).
Christine Boisson in Extérieur, Nuit
Guillaume and Julie are far away from being perfect: he is clumsy and a bit of a looser, Julie is grumpy and distant, they look for each other without really meeting, and they try to understand each other without really knowing how to do that. But it is because of their evident flaws and it is in the very moments they loose their defences (Guillaume screaming during a fake tennis play, sport where he failed to be a champion, and Julie while dancing alone in the middle of the crowd in a techno disco) that the public can feel close to them. The story can be real, or it can be a dream, or a mix of the two things, and you believe in any of the options (and in the “open” end). 
The actors give a fundamental contribution to the beauty of it all: Raphaël Personnaz, the new rising star of French cinema, is perfect as the tender and exposed Guillaume, while Julie Gayet is a fascinating, stunningly gorgeous, and mysterious Julie (we want to see her more often!). To see on a big screen a woman in her 40s with all her wrinkles and her real expression is a precious gift, for which I thank both the actress and the film-maker (and the fact that the guy is at least 10 years younger than her is not even mentioned... yippee!!!).  
If you want to see something unconventional and charming, then don’t miss this movie.

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