Friday, September 28, 2007


Writer-director Xavier Giannoli is to be congratulated on making a film of rare patience and emotional intelligence and of drawing a breath-taking and career-redefining performance from Gérard Depardieu. In THE SINGER, Depardieu has a wonderfully multi-faceted character to play and he matches a subtle and beautiful script with his most delicate and charming performance. His character, Alain Moreau, is an ageing lounge singer who was very famous in France in his youth but is now reduced to singing at tea-dances and in provincial nightclubs. He is over-weight and dies his hair in a vain attempt to stay young and please the crowds. He dresses in a vulgar fashion and sings old-fashioned songs. But Alain is disarmingly honest. He knows that women only sleep with him to make their husbands jealous and realises that his commitment to the old standards is rather ridiculous. Nonetheless, he takes pride in the fact that he makes people happy and still plays with a live band. He seems happy in himself despite his somewhat lonely existence.

One night, Alain encounters and beds a much younger, beautiful, enigmatic woman called Marion (Cécile De France). She cuts and runs the next day. The rest of the film is a protacted dialogue between the two. He likes her, feels he understands her previous hurt, and that he can help. She is fascinated by him but also repelled by him. After all, she could easily have the good-looking younger man in her office.

At times, I found THE SINGER frustrating because the constant cat and mouse game was so stubbornly resisting a resolution. But I also believe that this is the strength of the movie. Giannoli resists all the conventions of the romantic drama. We feel that these are real characters - quirky, irrational, capricious, warm-hearted. To that end, THE SINGER is a wonderful mix of charm and astringency.

THE SINGER/QUAND J'ETAIS CHANTEUR played Cannes 2006. It was released in France and Belgium in 2006 and in Germany, Australia, Argentina, Turkey and Spain earlier this year. It is currently on release in the UK.

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