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SOU­VENIR ★★

Di­rected by Bavo De­furne. Star­ring Is­abelle Hup­pert, Kevin Azais, Jo­han Ley­sen. Club, Light House, Dublin, 90 min There is some hope in the world. A few years into her sev­enth decade, Is­abelle Hup­pert – with­out be­ing shuf­fled into dowa­ger roles – finds her­self busier and more cel­e­brated than ever. Her cur­rent sta­tus prob­a­bly ex­plains why this sub­stan­dard main­stream French film has made it into Ir­ish cin­e­mas. It’s not the worst thing you’ll see this year, but it does noth­ing to jus­tify its ex­port be­yond home ter­ri­to­ries.

Sou­venir hangs around a de­cent idea for a sen­ti­men­tal drama and it starts per­fectly pleas­antly. Lil­liane, once the French rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test, now works in a fac­tory plac­ing the fi­nal gar­nish on tureens of pâté. A nice young co-worker called Kevin (Kévin Azaïs) recog­nises Lil­liane and in­vites her to sing at his box­ing club. For some rea­son that (not for the last time) is un­sat­is­fac­to­rily ex­plained, she agrees and belts out her early hit to the crowd.

What hap­pens next is pro­foundly per­plex­ing. How can we put this del­i­cately? For all her con­sid­er­able ta­lents, Hup­pert will never be mis­taken for Shirley Bassey. I won’t say she can’t sing a note. But no­body would in­vite her back for a se­cond go on the karaoke ma­chine at the Mullingar Arms.

Is she sup­posed to be bad? Ap­par­ently not. She is swept along to­wards qual­i­fi­ca­tion heats for the next Euro­vi­sion.

Ev­ery­thing about the film’s later stages feels phoney. Lil­liane’s re­union with an old song­writ­ing col­league comes out of nowhere. That char­ac­ter’s un­de­ni­able cor­rup­tion – he acts as Euro­vi­sion judge de­spite se­cretly writ­ing an en­try – is never sat­is­fac­to­rily ad­dressed. The nov­elty song in ques­tion would qual­ify for no Euro­vi­sion later than 1988.

Still, Hup­pert’s gutsy per­for­mance op­po­site a younger male lead did get me think­ing. Never mind that Lady Gaga thing. How great would it be to see a gen­der-re­versed re­make of A Star is Born with Hup­pert as Norma Maine?

Mind you, it might be best to use the 1937 ver­sion as a model. That’s the one with­out songs.

Swan­song: Is­abelle Hup­pert in Sou­venir

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