THE FRENCH THEY ARE A FUNNY RACE: Part Duex, Movies at the Col-Coa Film Festival: 9 Month Stretch and Me, Myself and Mum by Howard Casner

Are you sitting down?


9-month-stretch-sandrine-kiberlain-albert-dupontel-nicolas-marieYou maybe ought to be sitting down for this.
You see, there’s this judge. And she’s female. And she doesn’t like men and thinks they are all cowards because of something her father did to her mother, yadda, yadda, yadda. She is all work and no play, doesn’t drink or have sex. And she’s up for a major promotion.
But then on New Year’s Eve, against her better judgment, she lets her colleagues talk her into joining the party. She gets down and boogies; imbibes a bit too, too; leaves the merrymaking ministry in a haze…and six months later discovers she’s pregnant.  And can’t remember how it happened or with whom.
No, no, that’s still not it. Don’t get up yet. You probably should stay seated.


When she tries to find out who the father is, she realizes that it is Bob Nolan, the recently arrested “eye gobbler”, a second story man who has been apprehended for not just robbing safes, but on his last job, the owner of the house was discovered the morning after with his arms and legs cut off and his eyes removed and eaten (hence, the media nickname)…and still alive.


Thank god it’s a comedy.


I must admit that 9 Month Stretch starts out a little slow. That is mainly because the judge in question, Ariane Felder, is a bit of a type: the woman trying to do a man’s job, so of course she either has to be either sexless and repressed, or she has to be unable to control her emotions (or both, as here).


And I must admit redux, I normally despise movies with characters like this. It’s such a standard issue view of women and usually says more about the author than it does about the character.


But when Ariane gets film from CCTV cameras that traces her movements that New Year’s Night and it shows her drunkenly wobbling down the street, making a rousing speech in her judge’s wig before some prostitutes in a park, and then running into Bob, the two of them going off to some alley where Ariane pounces upon this lowlife, first going down on him before throwing him to the ground and doing the cowgirl, I know I should say, “God, what a misogynistic film”.


I know I should have said that. I know I should have been deeply offended. I really wanted to be.


But instead, all I could think was, “been there, done that”.


And from that moment on, I was in for a penny, in for a pound.


Ariane is played by Sandrine Kiberlain. She has sharp features and a pinched face with freckles and blonde hair pulled back taught. In many ways, she was born to play roles like this: the average looking woman who is still very alluring. She may not be Bridgette Bardot, but it’s not hard to understand why men go for her.


She won the Cesar award for Best Actress for this bit of droll playacting. But I have to be honest and say that, as good as she is, I don’t think she’s the one who makes the movie. Try as she might, the familiarity of the role weighs her down a bit until…


Albert Dupontel arrives on the scene as the cat burglar. He’s not Yves Montand in the looks department either, but he has this scruffy, rough trade appearance with a dangling earring and a hairstyle that usually only people twenty years younger wear (unless you’re forty and you’re desperately trying to look twenty years younger).


It’s all just a bit too much, of course. And you can’t help but laugh and immediately like him the moment he appears.   He’s the sort of burglar who is brilliant at his craft, even a genius (he can escape a prison with a single bound), but is so not bright he has to count on his fingers backwards to figure out just when this judge got pregnant, and so dumb he can’t remember that he has a perfect alibi the night of the gobbling.


But Dupontel brings such a kinetic energy to the whole thing. All he has to do is have that somewhat puzzled and vacant look in his eyes to elicit a laugh (he always comes across as if he can’t quite comprehend exactly what is going on or what anything means).


And he and Kiberlain have wonderful comic timing together. They’re the kind of characters that are so polar opposite you know they are perfect for each other (if, for no other reason than, well, who else would have them).


Dupontel co-wrote the screenplay with Hector Cabello Reyes and Olivier Demangel, and also directed, and the movie builds in ridiculous and preposterous ways, as farces are want to do. But the writers never lose control and it resolves itself all very satisfyingly by the end.


With Philippe Uchan as a colleague of Ariane who has a tres amusement running gag of being hit on the head. Also, with Yolande Moreau, Gasper Noe and Terry Gilliam in blink and you’ll miss them parts and Jean Dujardin in an absolutely hysterical cameo as a interpreter for the death.


I predict an American remake with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.




Me Myself and Mum 2013 movie Still 2Me, Myself and Mum, written (along with Claude Mathieu and Nicolas Vassiliev) and directed by and starring (in dual roles as mother and son) Guillaume Gallienne, won five Cesars, including picture, actor and adapted screenplay (it was nominated for five more and also won a couple of awards at Cannes).


I’m sorry, but I have to admit that, well, I don’t get it. Now, I’m certainly willing to admit that it’s me and not Galliene, especially since everybody else is loving it to death. But, I’m sorry, I just did not get it.


The movie is an adaptation of Galliene’s stage play, a one man show, autobiographical, that explores his difficult relation with his mother and his issues with coming to terms with his sexuality.


But it never came to life for me, as apparently it has for just about every other audience member who has seen it.


I think the first issue is that for two thirds of the story, it’s your typical coming out tale, a saga about a young man realizing that he’s gay. It’s a story that has been done so many times before (complete with scenes of attempted cross dressing using blankets and the inevitable head over heals falling in love with a straight fellow student and getting one heart’s broken), it’s almost its own genre (the coming of gay age movie) and is so old as the hills, it’s almost impossible to bring anything new to the concept.


In fact, I kept wanting to yell out, “Hey, the 1980’s called. They want their chestnut of a gay movie back.”


And then in the last third, Gallienne pulls a bait and switch and reveals that this is not, as you may have thought and with good reason since everything Galliene and the authors did prior to this pointed in that direction, a coming out story, but is about a man who is actually straight, but who everyone always treated as being gay, until the poor sap thought he was, too.


Okay. I actually think that could be a fascinating subject for a film. Someone who thinks they are gay but realizes that, instead, they are what in England is called an “effeminate heterosexual” (we don’t really have a word for that in American; well, we do, but they are not very nice words and are extremely not politically correct).


And more and more movies (especially overseas) are exploring what is called fluid sexuality. And a good thing, too.


But to introduce it in the last act as if that were what the whole film is about is a bit late for me since I had already long since lost interest in the predictability and clichés of the story up ‘til then (it’s problematic enough to switch horses in midstream; it’s even more difficult to do it when the horse is about to step down on the further shore).


I’m not sure what to say about this switch. I have to be honest, I don’t fully buy it. Maybe I would have if the whole movie had been about that, rather than just the last part that felt more than a bit thrown together and underdramatized.


And at the risk of being politically incorrect and coming down on the side of the Medusianic mother whose basic reaction when she is told that her son is straight and getting married (and to a woman), is, “Oh, really? Prove it”, my reaction to it all is, well, to be ruthlessly honest, “Oh, really? Prove it”.


As director, Galliene works hard to open up the stage bound proceedings of the story and often does some imaginative work here, flowing seamlessly back and forth from reality to the stage. And he does have a way with over the topness as when his character visits a gay bar unlike any gay bar you’ve probably ever been to (it’s almost something out of a Pat Robertson fever dream).


But his real triumph is as the mother, a gorgon of the first rank, someone who finds her youngest son annoying and in the way and just doesn’t want to hear about it, any of it and just wishes he would go away most of the time.   It’s a rich and vibrant performance.


As himself, Galliene doesn’t quite work as well. This is mainly because he plays the part from very young (perhaps age eight) until his present day age of forty. On stage, this sort of convention might have worked a bit better. But here, he plays the various ages in his life in a way that I could never really tell the difference between any of them with the result that I had to keep reminding myself just how old he was pretending to be in order to keep the story straight (so to speak).


With Diane Kruger in a bit part as a spa worker who gives enemas (well, it’s a shitty job, but I guess someone has to do it).

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