Monday, March 16, 2009
In my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, I mentioned that in 2006, Gabin's daughter Florence Moncorge-Gabin had just directed her first feature film, Le Passager de l'ete (Passenger of the Summer).
This week, Americans, including myself, have finally been able to see this film for the first time, and the superb Passager de l'ete proves that talent runs in the family. Florence Moncorge-Gabin is a top-notch filmmaker.
Passager de l'ete is a classic bodice-ripper, in the style of Tennessee Williams' The Long, Hot Summer and William Inge's Picnic. In Passager, which sets its scene in 1950, 'hunky' drifter Joseph (Grigori Darangere) shows up on the Brittany farm belonging to fortysomething Monique (the stellar Catherine Frot), and as he begins laboring on the farm (this includes the requisite sweaty 'wood-chopping' and 'cow-milking' scenes), he sets all hearts aflutter -- and not just Monique's heart, but also the hearts of Monique's twentysomething daugther Jeanne (Laurie Smet), as well as the town's luminous resident pharmacist (and roundheels), Angele (Mathilde Seigner).
In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, Le Passager de l'ete (the English subtitles incorrectly simplify the title, as "One Summer"), might have come across as pure Harlequin Romance, but Florence Moncorge and her cinematographer Jean-Francois Robin are such masterful visual stylists, that the film is as lush and poetic as Terence Malick's Days of Heaven. (The film's compositions also reminded me of Francois Millet's 1857 painting, "The Gleaners.") Jean-Claude Petit contributes a haunting orchestral score that stays in your head when the film is over and demonstrates that he has the same chops as any of the great current American film composers.
Lions Gate Entertainment is distributing Le Passager de l'ete in North America in an English-subtitled version, but not on DVD: You can see it exclusively as a 'video-download' on Amazon.com, and here is the link, which you can paste into your browser:
After watching the first two minutes and eight seconds of Le Passager de l'ete on-line, free of charge (on the Amazon website) you may opt to either "rent" the film for a twenty-four hour period, which will cost you $2.99, or you can "buy it" for $9.95, and the title will stay in your 'on-line Amazon video library' so you can watch it as many times as you want, forever. Normally, 'this author' is a bit trepidatious about watching films over the computer, but the quality and picture size are both very good, and you can even download the film to your TiVo, if you're technically/digitally inclined -- which I am not.
In my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, I mentioned that Jean Gabin did not want his daughter Florence to enter the movie world, but she was right to do so, and you can see the results in the splendid 2006 feature which she has directed, Le Passager de l'ete. It's a great film.