From the Land of the Moon: Desperately seeking true love
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2016: Nicole Garcia brings us a piece of a charm that is slightly old-fashioned but nonetheless very effective, giving Marion Cotillard a great role
No, high-level arthouse film today is not just about boomerang effects, plunging the viewer into an immersive experience, sparkling shine, off-the-wall narratives and pushing genre to the extreme. As the venerable Ken Loach has also demonstrated with his own personal style, the art of direction also makes do very well with classic recipes when you have an excellent story, honesty and a talented actor in the mix. This is the case exactly in From the Land of the Moon [+see also:
film profile] by Nicole Garcia, which was screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, a piece that is impeccably orchestrated by the director and respects the canons of melodrama right up to the poignant finale on the destiny of a woman desperately seeking true love in France during the 50s and 60s. A touching feminist figure taken from the book by Milena Agus, which Marion Cotillard takes ownership of in a performance that she adds to a career in which she never looks better than when she’s playing roles haunted by the shadow of death.
"I won’t lie to you, she’s ill. It’s her nerves, she’s not mad. She needs a man in her life". This is how Gabrielle’s mother proposes the hand of her daughter Gabrielle in marriage to José (played impeccably by Alex Brendemühl), a Catalan seasonal worker in exile in the South of the French countryside, with a little financial incentive. Hardly facing a choice, as it’s a case of marriage or imprisonment in Marseille, the young woman accepts, in a rather specific exchange of promises: "- I won’t sleep with you, I will never love you, - I don’t love you either". It has to be said that Gabrielle feels excited and trapped to a downright disturbing extent for her petty bourgeois family, offering herself to the village primary school teacher with an impassioned and shameless letter ("the main thing: you enter me") and shaking him up in public after his embarrassed refusal, before running away and collapsing from exhaustion in a ditch, where she is found the next morning. The strange couple then settles in Ciotat, by the sea, with the emotional and sexual divide that separates them never bridged, with the exception of one time, the result of sheer curiosity and without pleasure. But when she’s sent to the Alps to be treated for kidney stones, the melancholic Gabrielle finally finds an outlet for her feverish passion when she has a fleeting encounter with another patient, André Sauvage (Louis Garrel), a lieutenant who has just returned from the Indochina war with serious health problems. Consumed by love, Gabrielle starts nurturing big obsessive hopes, suffers the cruellest of disappointments, and ultimately gives in with a birth, accompanied throughout by her tersely affectionate husband and suffering in secret as a result of her situation. But 17 years later (in an epilogue completing the flashforward that opens the film as a teaser), a clap of thunder comes calling…
Very solidly written by the director with Jacques Fieschi and Natalie Carter, From the Land of the Moon develops at times in a way that’s too pointed, and the character of the lieutenant doesn’t have enough space to reach the same depths as the other two protagonists, but the accurate portrayal of the loneliness and the inner plight of a woman overflowing with emotion overrides the few faults of a film directed with elegant flow in a tradition that is assimilated with great calm. A discrete and suppressed elegance that frees the field of vision to the benefit of the tumult of a heart, body and spirit hungry for love and the absolute.
International sales of From the Land of the Moon are being handled by StudioCanal, which will release the film in France on 19 October.
(Translated from French)