I can see why such a movie could be so easily dismissed by your regular Hollywood addict, it's slow, rather smart and very much grounded in reality, and it's your typical Parisian literary approach to cinema story telling. Although I should emphasize the fact that I don't use the word typical in a derogatory way. Desplechin, Podalydes, Bonitzer, Resnais and other French directors, may seem stylistically or thematically close, but in truth are very different from one another. They take movies seriously, the European way, for them it's not about plot or sending a clear message to the viewer, they're more concerned with lofty concepts, creating a mood or simply sharing their views on the human condition. So yes, the protagonist is an intellectual (so is Bonitzer, he used to be a philosophy teacher) and yes, the thing happening to him may not seem to warrant a 2 hour movie, his life is boring, and so is often our own. Bonitzer, shows the naked truth, and it's risky, because that's not why most people go to movies, and I get that, but the movie is actually fun (in parts),never sentimental but sincere and touching. It's a fine movie, honest, solid, definitely worthy of the price of admission. It's very French and definitely naturalistic and intellectual, but pretentious it is not, but to put it simply, it'll be freezing in Hell before Bonitzer starts dumbing down his movies!
Looking for Hortense
Comedy / Drama
Looking for Hortense
Comedy / Drama
Keywords: husband wife relationship
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Damien Hauer (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is a professor of Chinese civilization. But now he has a problem. He has promised Iva Delusi (Dame Kristin Scott Thomas),his life companion, to ask his father Sébastien Hauer (Claude Rich),a state councilor, to intervene in favor of Zorica Aurore (Isabelle Carré),an illegal alien. In theory, Sébastien is influential enough to keep Zorica from being deported, but the trouble is that he has always despised his son. As for Damien, he hates his father. It looks as if Zorica is not on track to stay in the country for much longer.
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Cool, slow, intriguing - if you can stay awake!
Whoever classified this movie as a 'comedy' must have a strange sense of humour. Mildly amusing in parts, it is hardly full of laughs. Indeed it seems a rather sad story - ageing French professor Hauer is asked by his partner, Iva, to use his high-level contacts in the judiciary to secure the future of an illegal immigrant, Aurore. He visits his father, a judge, hoping to get access to the man at the top, Hortense. However, his father has little time for him (figuratively and literally) and Hortense has even less. Hauer discovers his partner is having an affair with a younger man and tells her to leave their apartment and their young, brattish son. He encounters a student who turns out to be the illegal immigrant, Aurore. A relationship develops . . . A gun, gay oriental youth,Japanese cuisine and a visual reference to cherry blossom are added to the mix. It's all quite fragmented and puzzling and very French/Parisian - but also sufficiently intriguing to keep you watching (or rather me; my wife fell asleep!). I'm not sure why, but I did enjoy it. (Viewed at Screen 3, The Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK 31 August 2013).
Going to pieces
The first thing that needs to be said about this film is that the Hortense of the title is not a woman or a girl. Hortense is the surname of a high official in the French Government, named Henri Hortense. The French title is CHERCHEZ HORTENSE, and the translation LOOKING FOR HORTENSE gives a wrong impression, and also fails to convey the urgency of the French title, since 'look for' is passive whereas 'search for' is more accurate. The film stars Jean-Pierre Bacri, who looks rumpled, worried, unshaven and at his wits' end for most of the film, although this is intentional. His wife is played by Kristin Scott Thomas, brilliant as usual, but this time looking haggard, distracted, unkempt, and hopeless, which is also intentional. The other lead role is played by Isabelle Carré, as the young Croatian immigrant named Zorica. Scott Thomas is having a serious mid-life crisis and behaving irrationally, and is in the grip of a manic addiction to tobacco which is so extreme that everyone in the film criticises her for it, and when she cannot find her cigarettes and is desperate for a fag, she cannot focus on any other comments or subject, but is wholly obsessed with the need for a smoke. She allows her marriage to go to pieces without appearing to have the slightest rational grip on reality anymore. She has a disgusting brother, with an even more disgusting girlfriend, who when visiting slip into the bathroom to have a quickie and emerge with satisfied grins on their faces and their hands still all over each other. Seriously sleazy. The film is a savage satirical critique of French officialdom, and of modern French life, frankly. The film is directed by Pascal Bonitzer, who in 2003 made another film about a mid-life crisis entitled SMALL CUTS (PETITES COUPURES),in which Kristin Scott Thomas also appeared. Apart from Scott Thomas, the most brilliant performance in this film is undoubtedly by Claude Rich, as Bacri's father. How does he do it? One's jaws drop as he drolls out his outrageous lines, such as: 'Am I homosexual if I sleep with men?' He is a senior judge and is the quintessence of hauteur. One of my favourite French actors, Philippe Duclos, plays a magnificent cameo as the high official Hortense, dripping with icy politeness and hypocrisy. Duclos is familiar as the lean and harried hater of official corruption, 'Monsieur Juge', to those like myself who are admirers of the police series SPIRAL (ENGRENAGES, which could creatively be translated 'all tied up in knots', 2005 onwards, see my review). Much of the pointed satire in this film is likely to be lost on people who are unaware of how corrupt France is. The story is a rambling one, without much in the way of structure. It more or less concerns the plight of Zorica who is about to be thrown out of the country for lacking a visa. As the characters in this film all go to pieces, they seem to tie themselves up in knots to an increasing degree at the same time. In other words, while unravelling, they also ravel. Think of it as Tesla's alternating current.