Ear my song

THE SINGER/QUAND J’ÉTAIS CHANTEUR Di­rected by Xavier Gian­noli. Star­ring Gérard Depar­dieu, Cé­cile de France, Mathieu Amal­ric Club, Queen’s, Belfast; IFI, Dublin, 112 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

ONE can’t help but sus­pect that this un­de­mand­ing ro­man­tic drama must, at some point, have been of­fered to Johnny Hal­ly­day. Per­haps the ag­ing French war­bler – as ridiculed as he is cel­e­brated – felt that Xavier Gian­noli’s tale of an ag­ing French war­bler – as ridiculed as he is cel­e­brated – cut a lit­tle too close to the bone.

At any rate, we have Gérard Depar­dieu in the ti­tle role and, as ever, the colos­sus of Château­roux un­leashes floods of ir­re­sistible charisma about the place. The story (un­like its hero) is painfully thin and the char­ac­ters’ mo­ti­va­tions re­main puz­zling through­out, but The Singer will do well enough un­til the next bour­geois di­ver­sion comes along.

Depar­dieu plays a lounge singer who, once mod­estly fa­mous, now hires him­self out to func­tions or plays sup­port to col­leagues whose ca­reers have proved more ro­bust. Depar­dieu’s Alain is far from be­ing a com­plete fail­ure: the odd fan still asks for an au­to­graph; his gigs re­main rea­son­ably lu­cra­tive. But he ap­pears weighed down by the knowl­edge that proper celebrity has never quite come his way.

One evening Alain en­coun­ters a young es­tate agent (the lively Cé­cile de France) and, af­ter a boozy li­ai­son, the two em­bark on a fal­ter­ing ro­mance. Mean­while, the old duf­fer’s for­mer wife, who still works as his man­ager, tries to work up the courage to tell him she is about to marry again.

This odd film never al­lows any of its sev­eral plots to ma­ture. The cen­tral re­la­tion­ship re­mains sketchy and the in­ti­ma­tions of mor­tal­ity that emerge are al­lowed to hang un­re­solved in the nar­ra­tive breeze. Still, there is enough rough charm in The Singer to dis­tract from the vague­ness of its plot. No amount of Gal­lic shrug­ging can, how­ever, ex­plain why Depar­dieu can’t sing for tof­fee. Sur­pris­ingly for an ac­tor of his class, he can only man­age a for­get­table reedy mum­ble.

Johnny Hal­ly­day might not have been such a bad choice af­ter all.

Good ac­tor, shame about the voice

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