Made­moi­selle Chambon,

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images -

She plays a haunt­ing, ro­man­tic Valse Triste by Hun­gar­ian com­poser Franz von Vecsey, and the mu­sic awak­ens some­thing dor­mant in Jean’s pro­le­tar­ian soul. Shortly after­ward, he picks up his fa­ther (Jean-Marc Thibault) from his nurs­ing home and ac­com­pa­nies him to the fu­neral par­lor, where the old man wants to pick out his own cof­fin. If Jean knew any Latin, the words tem­pus fugit would be rat­tling around in his brain to the strains of the Valse Triste.

This sense of life as short and locked on an in­ex­orable track with no turnoffs haunts most peo­ple at one time or an­other. When chance brings Jean and Véronique to­gether again, he helps her pick out paint for the new win­dow, and she in­vites him up to her apart­ment to lend him a record­ing of the von Vecsey piece. She puts on a CD, and they lis­ten with­out speak­ing, con­sumed with emo­tion as gor­geous mu­sic washes over and through them, and soon it is not just the throb­bing, soar­ing strains of the vi­o­lin that are do­ing the ca­ress­ing.

But pas­sion aroused is no guar­an­tee of hap­pily ever af­ter. Véronique is from an in­tel­lec­tual Parisian fam­ily. Jean is a work­ing­class ar­ti­san, la­bor­ing at the same trade his fa­ther did, mar­ried to a sim­ple, pretty woman, and he’s prob­a­bly never ven­tured very far from the small pro­vin­cial town where he has al­ways lived. Fam­ily is im­por­tant to Jean; Véronique has lit­tle to do with hers. She can’t set­tle in any one place. She works as a sub­sti­tute teacher and moves ev­ery year or so. (You may won­der why a woman in a short-term rental apart­ment is re­plac­ing a win­dow.)

There’s noth­ing new about this story. There are echoes of Brief En­counter, but the same echoes of ir­re­sistible long­ing roll down through cen­turies with­out end. Brizé’s del­i­cate touch con­jures up as­so­ci­a­tions with Eric Rohmer’s el­e­gant sto­ries of love’s ex­quis­ite ag­o­nies, with the elo­quence of clas­si­cal mu­sic here sub­sti­tut­ing for the ver­bal sym­phonies of Rohmer’s char­ac­ters. Sub­sti­tute other mu­sic and you have a coun­try song.

Will the story have a happy end­ing? And what would be a happy end­ing? Once the ser­pent has slith­ered into the gar­den, the game is changed. Anne-Marie is aware that some­thing is up, but she can’t get her hus­band to talk about it.

Even happy end­ings some­times have un­happy end­ings. Lin­don and Kiber­lain were once mar­ried, and they have a daugh­ter to­gether. It may be that this poignant real-life back story gave them reser­voirs of emo­tion from which to draw. In any case, both ac­tors de­liver the goods, word­lessly for the most part, as they tap the elo­quence of a long­ing that only mu­sic can ex­press.

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