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CANNES 2011 Directors’ Fortnight / France

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Everyone is forgivable in Téchiné’s Unforgivable

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Everyone is forgivable in Téchiné’s Unforgivable

“You might be a crime book writer, but you’re an arsehole in real life” hits Francis (André Dussollier) right between the eyes in André Téchiné’s Unforgivable [+see also:
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, a film about a writer (adapted from a novel by Philippe Dijan) that may be spot-on but is also a little too full, a little too inspired. The above line – highlighting the flaws of the film’s main character – can be used for the film’s other characters, given that none of them are perfect, yet their imperfection is such that you just want to forgive them, Téchiné too.

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Francis, a writer seeking the ideal locale (between nature and culture) to write his next book, finds love in Judith (Carole Bouquet), a former model with a lesbian past (her ex-lover is retired private eye Anna Maria) who now works as a real estate agent in Venice and who finds him a “dilapidated island” near the renowned Laguna.

Venice is ever-present in the background (albeit not the tourist version), in the gondola rides and small streets; and ever-changing seasons that lose count of the passing of the years. And it is there that Francis’ weaknesses slowly emerge, first as a writer (for he can only write when he is in love, and he adores his new wife), then as a father and a husband.

Shortly thereafter, his daughter Alice (Mélanie Thierry) – the result of a bad marriage and herself a mother – disappears while visiting him. Francis convinces Anna Maria to take on the case, and it turns out that Alice, although too old for running away, has run away to follow her love, a penniless Venetian aristocrat who traffics in drugs and fake merchandise.

Francis also proves a poor parental figure to his son Jérémie (a delinquent violently opposed to any form of contact with Anna Maria, like all the other parents in the film, with the exception of Judith who never had a child, which is her greatest mistake. Francis even pushes Judith to adultery when he asks Jérémie to spy on her – not that good husbands are any luckier in this story, as Alice’s “overly reassuring” spouse is a poor lover.

This simplified summary demonstrates that flaws contaminate one character after the next like a virus. The writer does not fail alone. Bad children mirror bad parents to such an extent that Francis notes humorously that “procreation should be abolished”.

The characters have a paradoxical tendency to use legal terminology and to look for a certain “integrity”. The pain inflicted by their failures, along with their desire to make up for them, are nevertheless touching. So that we willing forgive the filmmaker for copiously unrolling the spindle of his tale, filling his film with numerous references and sailing endlessly on the waters of an ever-sunny Venice.

(Translated from French)

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