Melki and Asti shine under Tokyo rains
by Natasha Senjanovic
Renowned opera and theatre director Frédéric Fisbach has added cinema to his many talents with Plum Rain (La pluie des prunes), a dramatic story about French playwright François (Gilbert Melki), who travels to Japan to participate in the staging of one of his plays, taking with him his dying grandmother (Adriana Asti), recovering from a stroke that has left her speechless.
Yet another film in Venice Days on the search for one’s identity and roots, as François becomes more and more displaced in the foreign land, his grandmother Tina begins to speak again and the two get to know each other as never before.
Said Fisbach: “The story is based on two personal stories of mine, traveling to Japan for work and my grandmother’s illness. Then I met with screenwriter Anne Louise Trividic and we tried to create something broader from this material.” Trividic said that going to Japan with Fisbach after having just met him was essential to creating Francois: “I got to both know Frédéric and the Japanese culture for the first time on that trip. My own cultural shock was similar to what Francois experiences and it was fundamental in writing him.”
When asked what specific professional and personal baggage he sought to convey through the film, the director said “I wanted to present the theatre environment to the outside world, which often finds it very bizarre. I also asked myself questions about identity and a sense of place because I’m actually first generation French, of Mediterranean parents. And when my grandmother began speaking to me after she got sick, it was in a kind of Esperanto, a mix of English, German, Italian, Arabic, and so forth.”
What is also striking about Plum Rain is that Fisbach sidesteps many cultural clichés by showing a Tokyo rarely seen in western-made films, and it is his being out of place in everyday life that makes Francois’ displacement all the more profound. Melki gives a strong performance as a cold man who is ultimately more a victim of his inability to express his sadness his pain than of culture shock, and Asti is splendid as a woman who oscillates between moments of wide-eyed infantilism and wisdom that she imparts to her grandson in the hopes of helping him open up.
The €1m film was co-produced by Fred Ballaïche for Shilo Films (behind Raphael Nadjari’s Tehilim [+see also:
film profile]) and ARTE France, in association with Eurospace and 2.1 Films. As it was originally produced for television, it will first be broadcast on ARTE in November and the filmmakers are hoping it will be released domestically in March or April of 2008.
World sales are being handled by Umedia.
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