319 Great Directors: Arnaud Desplechin

“You know, we start the “corpus” with a few films and then it gets bigger and bigger to the point of becoming completely incomprehensible to someone who’s not participating in the script.”

Why This Director?: One needs to catch up on someone who makes really LONG movies.

My Last Experience Was…: Nada.

What Did I Watch: Kings and Queen/A Christmas Tale.

Where Does He Fit: Kings and Queen, despite being two and a half hours long, has a LOT going on within the opening half hour where we learn that Nora is a two time divorcee with a third marriage coming up that she is not really excited about, a son with autism, a father with cancer, her second husband (first one, who had the child, died) has just been institutionalized AND she wants him to raise her son. If you think this sounds overwhelming, well, it is, and the constant sense of experimentation and fuckery in the shot and editing choices only adds to the sense of something big and overwhelming even if it’s carefully calibrated. A favorite part is Emmanuelle Devos’ claims of bravery and strength as she confronted the bureaucracy with regards to getting away from raising her own child, which is taken totally seriously despite her thorny performance making it all about how she represents herself rather than what she actually is. I will also cop to totally not getting who certain characters were at a fairly regular series of occasions, so thank god for Devos and Mathieu Amalric as the leads, with their parallel storylines given full credence and understand even when the flashbacks and techniques befuddle since there is so much of them.


A Christmas Tale also utilizes a whole lot of techniques, but in a different way, with the second scene being a shadow puppet show recapping the family history-the oldest son died from cancer, the second (a girl) was not a match and the third son conceived for that purpose wound up not working either. They then had a fourth. Catherine Denevue and Jean-Paul Roussillon, who had fairly thankless roles in Kings and Queen, get much better material to do here as the parents. Amalric is back as the third child who was no good for the transfusion, while Anne Consigny and Melvil Poupaud round out this lovely tale of acidic family dysfunction. Things actually remain at a pretty standard register, but the chaos and beautifully drawn portraits with touches like the locket floating over the snowy hamlet are as lovely as you could ask for. There are definitely some drier portions, but on the whole, this was a much more satisfying 2.5 hours than Kings and Queen in how the old cast members become something new as a result of getting thrown into new circumstances (Hippolyte Girardot gets a smallish role in both, although he has more fun with his lawyer in K+Q).


Most Valuable Asset: His movies are so filling.
Most Excited For: My Sex Life, Or How I Got Into an Argument.

Coming Up Next: Cynical lover of young people Noah Baumbach.


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