The flesh is will­ing, the spirit weak

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

VAL­LEY OF LOVE Di­rected by Guil­laume Ni­cloux. Star­ring Ger­ard Depar­dieu, Is­abel Hup­pert. Club, IFI, Dublin 132 min

Ger­ard Depar­dieu and Is­abelle Hup­pert have not oc­cu­pied the same cin­ema screen since they ap­peared Mau­rice Pialat’s Loulou 35 years ago. They have grown older in very dif­fer­ent ways: Hup­pert is a more dis­tin­guished ver­sion of the stern pres­ence she one was; Depar­dieu has be­come his own Spit­ting Im­age pup­pet.

How might they work to­gether on screen in their cur­rent con­di­tion? Bril­liantly as it hap­pens. Play­ing an es­tranged cou­ple meet­ing up to ful­fil a prom­ise to their late son, the two vet­er­ans form a lovely, com­ple­men­tary part­ner­ship.

Depar­dieu seems will­ing to re­move his top and al­low the moun­tain­ous masses be­low to act as comic re­lief at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. Hup­pert pinches her face and ex­er­cises that gut­tural rasp with a com­pelling

Desert heat: Is­abel Hup­pert in Val­ley of Love

blend of anger and re­gret.

What a shame they are not in a bet­ter film. Were al­most any­body else in Guil­laume Ni­cloux’s sen­ti­men­tal piece it would barely be worth re­leas­ing out­side France.

Depar­dieu and Hup­pert play two ac­tors who, years af­ter their part­ing, re­ceive let­ters from a son in San Fran­cisco who ap­pears to have killed him­self. The in­struc­tions are baf­fling. They are to drive to a cer­tain point in Death Val­ley and wait for him to “re­turn” and greet them. Ini­tially, most sen­si­ble adults will as­sume that the late young man was talk­ing metaphor­i­cally, but, as they drive deeper into the heat, ap­par­ently su­per­nat­u­ral oc­cur­rences sug­gest he may have meant the prom­ise lit­er­ally.

The prob­lem is not that the later de­vel­op­ments are im­plau­si­ble (we’ve bought many ghosts in fic­tion). It’s that they don’t fit at all com­fort­ably with what has gone be­fore. To that point, Val­ley of Love has been a per­fectly watch­able semi-com­edy fea­tur­ing ex­cel­lent duo­logues be­tween un­touch­able pro­fes­sion­als. Then it takes a turn into the barmy world of mind, body and spirit.

Get to­gether again, guys. Pick a more con­sis­tent script next time.

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