Day 2 of the IFI French Film Festival began with the screening of Jean Becker’s My Afternoons with Margueritte (La tête en friche) – a slow-burning tale of friendship and family starring Gérard Depardieu and Gisèle Casadesus. Depardieu plays Germain, a semi-literate 50-year-old, who lives in a caravan beside his ageing mother who is losing touch with reality. Germain is a figure of fun to his friends in the village and through a series of flashbacks we see what a difficult upbringing he’s had, being chastised by his mother and teachers throughout his youth.
Germain tends his garden and in the afternoon feeds the 19 pigeons he has befriended and named in his local park. It is here that he meets Margueritte, a 96-year-old who introduces him to books by reading aloud to him in the afternoon and encouraging him on his own journey. Their friendship blossoms as her love of literature and words feed his inquisitive mind, which has hitherto lacked stimulation and was never an object of interest. As Germain grows and his life is enriched, the film itself also extends beyond the early flashbacks of his childhood to reveal more about his family.
The two performances raise the film above being merely a sweet, simple story of friendship. Casadesus (a star of stage in France) is remarkable in her role and works with the script in a beautifully naturalistic fashion. Depardieu is in fine form here and harnesses his acting in a spot-on underperformed role that allows his vulnerable and sensitive side to shine through. Together they make the relationship come to life.
Unashamedly sentimental, My Afternoons with Margueritte is a charming affair with a mature script and a big heart.
The festival continued with an evening screening of Chicks (La vie au ranch) – the debut feature from Sophie Letourneur, which is a lively comedy focusing on the social lives of a group of female students. The screening was introduced by Michel Ciment, the famous film critic, who himself is the subject of the documentary Michel Ciment: The Art of Sharing Movies, which screens tomorrow and will be followed by a Q&A with Ciment.
Friday closed with Making Plans for Lena ( Non ma fille, tu n’iras pas danser), Christophe Honoré’s film written specifically for its lead actress Chiara Mastroianni, who plays Lena a mother of two dealing with the break-up of her marriage.
The film is set to screen again on Tuesday, 23rd November at 4.15 pm.
Click here for details of the festival’s programme of events.