Greetings from Zermatt
by Françoise Deriaz
17/12/2006 - A true comedic talent is revealed in Jean-Stéphane Bron’s debut feature My Brother is Getting Married [trailer, film focus], as well as a compassionate approach that is neither harsh nor self-satisfied. This is certainly no experiment for the young filmmaker as he already has a huge success behind him, Le génie helvétique, a creative documentary remarkable for the relevance of its subject matter and humour. Without completely abandoning documentary terrain, My Brother is Getting Married drags a bruised and fractured Swiss family into a reunion to which they are inescapably bound by a pact made over 20 years ago.
Moved by the destinies of the thousands of men, women and children fleeing Vietnam on flimsy boats, the Depierraz family listened to their hearts and took in young Vinh. Twenty years later, the boy saved form the water announces his wedding, but the parents have divorced, the father is a failure, the mother continues lives a solitary life and the beautiful villa in which he grew up with a brother and sister is now in ruins. Memories of a vacation on the snows of Zermatt are kept alive only for Vinh’s mother, who every year faithfully receives a postcard from Cervino. However, the Depierrazes will have to play out this happy farce for real, because the boy’s Vietnamese family is coming to attend the wedding.
Bron uses the pretence of documentary to deftly tell the story of the Depierraz family: the members of the family take turns recounting, in bits and pieces, their version of events into Vinh’s brother video camera while all the while a contrived serenity is improvised and staged in a great rush. From encounters laden with fleeting glances and a clear aversion to the imposed changes, whatever the price to be paid, Bron uses comical tones with great finesse and grace to avoid any laughter directed at the characters. Their pathetic and clumsy efforts to save face evade caricature, including cultural shock.
Particularly memorable scenes from My Brother is Getting Married include an Ikea table that threatens to fall apart and a portrait of the father. This symbiosis (on principle) with the characters allows the director to continually alternate between comedy and drama, giving the film the same rhythm. The humour of the feverish preparations to give the family villa a semblance of lustre, the arrival of the Vietnamese family and the comedy of the wedding itself are followed by a certain calm. The claws are retracted, exchanged glances change once again and a feeble light pierces the fog covering Cervino.
If the line between documentary and fiction is not as clear as it could be, and the drama’s eruption, by contrast, overly rapid, the film’s success owes much to Jean-Luc Bideau’s performance. Never before has he adapted so fully to a director’s universe, proving, when necessary, his standing as both a great comedic and dramatic actor. Non-professional actor Quoc Dung Nguyen is also a revelation in the role of Vinh.
Without a doubt, Bron is one of the most promising talents of French-Swiss cinema.