Par­ents bat­tle over son in ‘ Cus­tody’

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Stage - jmey­ers@ hearst­medi­act. com; Twit­ter: @ joesview Joe Mey­ers

“Har­row­ing” and “heart­felt” are two of the words that keep pop­ping up in re­views of the French film “Cus­tody,” which had its state the­atri­cal pre­miere at the Avon Theatre in Stam­ford un­der the aus­pices of the Al­liance Fran­caise of Green­wich and the Hearst Movie & A Mar­tini group.

The film about a bit­ter cus­tody fight won the Sil­ver Lion at last year’s Venice Film Fes­ti­val, mark­ing the writer- di­rec­tor Xavier Legrand as a ma­jor new tal­ent on the global stage.

Legrand is a film and theatre ac­tor mak­ing his fea­ture- length di­rect­ing de­but with “Cus­tody” ( af­ter pro­duc­ing the 2013 Os­carnom­i­nated short “Just Be­fore Los­ing Ev­ery­thing”).

The au­di­ence of about 25 peo­ple who at­tended the screen­ing were more or less stunned into si­lence by the pic­ture, which shows the frus­trated father An­toine ( De­nis Meno­chet) be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dis­tressed by the aloof­ness of his ex- wife Miriam ( Lea Drucker) and the way his 11- year- old Julien ( Thomas Gio­ria) re­coils from the man on their week­end vis­its.

While many in the au­di­ence were shocked by the steady es­ca­la­tion of ten­sion, and the vi­o­lence in the clos­ing scenes, Louisa Greene, who is the di­rec­tor of de­vel­op­ment for the non­profit art house, said she knew from her back­ground in do­mes­tic coun­sel­ing where the sad story was headed.

“I could see what was go­ing to hap­pen,” Greene said of her ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with cou­ples in the af­ter­math of a di­vorce. She found the film to be to­tally re­al­is­tic in its treat­ment of the omi­nous, slow boil­ing anger of a man alien­ated from his fam­ily by his own rage. “I thought the trea­ment of the sub­ject was to­tally ac­cu­rate ... it’s an ex­trao­d­i­nary film.”

The screen­ing was part of the monthly French Cine­math­eque se­ries at the Avon which mixes state pre­mieres of re­cent movies with clas­sics such as “Bat­tle of Al­giers” and “Pier­rot le fou.” Al­liance Fran­caise of Green­wich pres­i­dent Re­nee Ketcham and the booker for the Avon, Adam Birn­baum, pro­gram the se­ries which dove­tails with the Al­liance’s an­nual fes­ti­val, Fo­cus on French Cinema, set for next April 26 to 30.

Ev­ery­one I talked with af­ter the movie ageed that it wouldn’t re­ally work with­out the ex­tra­or­di­nary per­for­mance of Thomas Gio­ria as the fright­ened son. In the first scene in which An­toine men­aces the boy, Julien’s fear is al­most over­pow­er­ing.

The di­rec­tor’s sen­si­tiv­ity with Gio­ria is due, no doubt, to his own back­ground as a child ac­tor. Legrand ap­peared as one of the stu­dents in Louis Malle’s clas­sic 1987 World War II drama, “Au Revoir, Les En­fants.”

The slowly built sus­pense of the movie is aug­mented by the fact that Legrand chose not to em­ploy a mu­si­cal score. The si­lence be­comes omi­nous in sev­eral scenes be­cause we are so used to be­ing guided emo­tion­ally by film scores.

At the Venice fes­ti­val last year, Legrand told Va­ri­ety re­porter Elsa Kes­lassy that he shares Al­fred Hitch­cock’s pref­er­ence for sus­pense over shock.

“As ( the great di­rec­tor) said, ‘ There is no ter­ror in the bang, only in the an­tic­i­pa­tion of it,’ ” Legrand said.

The film­maker hopes to reach peo­ple who will re­spond to the so­cial con­cerns of a movie like “Cus­tody” as well as its tech­nique. “As di­rec­tors, we’re given a lot of money to cre­ate some­thing, and I feel a re­spon­si­bil­ity to take a stand on is­sues and make films that are ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­one, not just cinephiles and fes­ti­val au­di­ences.”

Legrand has al­ready been ap­proached by U. S. film in­dus­try peo­ple about do­ing English- lan­guage movies but he prefers the free­dom of di­rect­ing scripts he has de­vel­oped.

Up next for Legrand is a dark com­edy deal­ing with fe­male sex­u­al­ity. “I’d like to make peo­ple laugh at things they’ve been told they can’t,” he told Va­ri­ety.

Claude Medale / Cor­bis via Getty Im­ages / Con­trib­uted photo

Ac­tor- turned- di­rec­tor Xavier Legrand won the Sil­ver Lion at last year’s Venice Film Fes­ti­val for his har­row­ing drama “Cus­tody.”

Avon Theatre / Con­trib­uted photo

Ac­tor Thomas Gio­ria gives a har­row­ing per­for­mance as a child be­ing fought over by his par­ents in “Cus­tody,” which was screened as part of Hearst’s Movie & A Mar­tini se­ries.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.