IFFR 2023 Big Screen Competition
Review: Voyages en Italie
- Sophie Letourneur delivers a mischievous and light-hearted conjugal comedy about a four-day island break embarked upon by a Parisian couple bored stiff by their routine
"We need to get away, that’s the answer – If we’ve got problems, leaving isn’t going to solve them – We have to make the ordinary extraordinary – No, because the ordinary isn’t extraordinary". For a couple caught up in the routine of married life and sucked dry by the daily grind of parenthood, punctuated by the ever-quickening pace of life in a big, modern town, taking time to breathe and recentre ourselves isn’t always an easy thing, not least because of the different perspectives and expectations involved, not to mention the structurally dissimilar characters which paradoxically cement the longevity of many relationships. Things, in this sense, are simple yet complicated, and it’s this shifting sentimental zone that Sophie Letourneur has decided to explore in her 5th feature film Voyages en Italie, a bittersweet and borderline-slapstick comedy unveiled in the Big Screen competition of the IFFR (which the French filmmaker previously attended with Chicks – Life At the Ranch [+see also:
film profile] in 2010 and Enormous [+see also:
film profile] in 2020).
Young forty-somethings Sophie (played by the director herself) and Jean-Philippe (Philippe Katerine) are at the hot-cocoa-in-bed stage of their lives, where fatigue has pretty much obliterated any trace of sexual activity. Sophie knows something needs to be done, and she toils, despite her spouse’s reluctance, to find a destination for four days of escape far away from Paris and from their young son Raoul. She tries to avoid Italy where Jean-Phi has sojourned countless times with his exes, but needs must, and Sicily and the Aeolian Islands win out. Thus, we find our duo touching down in Catalonia, travel guide in hand.
A travel story offering a nod to Roberto Rossellini’s famous Journey to Italy (1954), the film weaves together an ensemble of trivial things, a succession of snapshots of run-of- the-mill couples tourism (the quality of the hotel, renting a car, where to park it, sharing "cannolis" and "granita di limone" on a bench, strolling through streets, visiting the Agrigento Valley of the Temples and the beach set against the towering white cliffs forming part of the Scala dei Turchi, gabbling Italian on terraces, complaining about mosquitos and the heat, renting a scooter, catching a ferry to Vulcano, setting off on walks, swimming, etc.), all while the grandparents babysit in Paris, just a phone call away, lending an ear to quiet concerns.
The landscape might be different, but our two protagonists nonetheless struggle to let go, stymied by their rarely synchronised personalities which the film plays on with plenty of affectionate humour and repeated irony. Because, ultimately, this escapade intended at taking stock turns out to reveal a deep, complicit love which goes far beyond surface antagonisms. It’s on this basis (according to the filmmaker) that their shared memories and scenarios of life as a couple play out, like a collection of little pebbles which don’t seem like much at the time, but which gain in splendour once roughened by time.
A seemingly improvised and artisanal fiction film about real life, Voyages en Italie is full of charm as it follows in the wake of its two endearing actors, across picture-postcard landscapes illuminated by Jonathan Ricquebourg. Light-hearted, though ever so slightly tinged with melancholy, the movie distils the elusive scent of a brief, existential detour under the Mediterranean sun.
The film is produced by Tourne Films (who are also managing international sales) in co-production with Arte France Cinéma.
(Translated from French)
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