HUNTING AND GATHERING
Camille (Audrey Tautou) works evenings as an office cleaning woman, and makes graceful drawings in her free time, living in the attic of a Parisian apartment block. Philibert (Laurent Stocker) is a young, aristocratic history buff living - temporarily - in an apartment lower down, part of the estate of his late grandmother. He has let out part of it to up and coming cook Franck (Guillaume Canet), a gruff young loner and womaniser with a genuine love for his frail grandmother, Paulette (Francoise Bertin). When Camille falls ill, Philibert insists she stay with the two of them so he can look after her. And even though she and Franck clash, the trio manage to live together and learn from each other.
Review by Louise Keller:
A vulnerable young woman terrified to commit; a well-meaning but bad tempered chef with an ageing grandmother unable to take care of herself; an eccentric aristocrat intent on finding his own way in the world. These are the main players whose fates become intertwined in this adaptation of Anna Gavalda's novel. Overall, it's a charming and uplifting film with engaging performances and a music score ripe for humming, even though it is not director Claude Berri's most complete work. While the essence of the meshing of the characters and their lives is nicely done, there are some notable jumps and holes in the screenplay, which while easy to forgive, appear to be the result of necessary condensing from the novel.
The film begins with a snapshot of each of the characters and their lives. It might be difficult at first to imagine the exquisite Audrey Tautou playing a loner of a cleaning lady (or 'surface engineer' as she calls herself), but soon we realise that what she does is little to do with who she is. Her sketches of everyone she meets allow her to observe without commitment, and there's something magical about watching Tautou at work; every expression on her beautiful face fascinates. It is not hard to guess that Cupid will eventually fling arrows towards her and Guillaume Canet's gruff, hard-working chef Franck, whose bad moods and perpetual womanising habits conceal a sentimental romantic. Franck also loves his grandmother (Françoise Bertin) and Bertin is touching as the elderly woman facing the inevitability of old age. The wild card is Philibert (gleefully played by Laurent Stocker), the stuttering, generous oddball who 'adopts' stray people and is the catalyst for change.
There are some sweet moments, like the scene when Philibert takes a picnic basket (containing crockery with the family crest) to Camille's shoe-box studio apartment, or when he learns to control his stutter through 'singing/elocution' lessons. But the heart of the film belongs to Tautou and Canet, whose 'will they/won't they' love affair delights us throughout the film. It's fresh, amusing and graceful entertainment as the intricacies of life and love find fruition.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Bravely adapting Anna Gavalda's successful but dense, 600 page novel for the screen, veteran filmmaker Claude Berri has crafted a remarkably cohesive film, with only one jarring mis-step, the gaping absence of a whole chapter (or more) devoted to the romance between Philibert (Laurent Stocker) and Yvonne (Helene Surgere). But this is a minor flaw - the loss isn't clarity (we can figure it out) but emotional involvement. There is, however, plenty of the latter everywhere else in the adroitly crafted screenplay, and in the superb performances from a remarkable cast.
Audrey Tautou (who replaced Charlotte Gainsbourg after an accident) constructs a wonderful Camille: compact, complex, complicated and complete. When she reveals a different side to her personality half way through (probably slower in the novel than in the film), she does it with great control and nuance. Guillaume Canet also has a journey that elevates hidden pluses of his personality, while Laurent Stocker is masterful in his portrait of a stuttering leftover of aristocracy who is made of sterner stuff than he shows.
The film has a subdued tone but holds our attention with its articulate dialogue and acute direction. It's only near the end we realise that in fact Berri has fashioned a multi faceted love story out of the book's core, serving his audience with a palatable mixture of drama, comedy and romance.
Berri, whose career is studded with movie diamonds such as Jean de Florette, Lucie Aubrac and Femme de Menage (The Housekeeper), teases out the relationships between the characters to overcome the difficulties of adapting the novel. And this is the film's great strength: he tells their stories, and we feel their ups and downs, growing to understand them all, at least as much as it's possible to understand the bizarre and unique nature of our fellow human beings. In that respect, the film is highly satisfying.
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HUNTING AND GATHERING (M)
Ensemble, c'est tout
CAST: Audrey Tautou, Guillaume Canet, Laurent Stocker, Francoise Bertin, Alain Sachs, Firmine Richard, Beatrice Michel
PRODUCER: Claude Berri
DIRECTOR: Claude Berri
SCRIPT: Claude Berri (novel by Anna Gavalda)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Agnes Godard
EDITOR: Francois Gedigier
MUSIC: Frederic Botton
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Laurent Ott, Hoan Thanh At
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 13, 2007