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
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