It is imperative you watch this. It is a masterwork in a new genre, and it will appear in a few years as an important predecessor, though it may seem excessive right now. A new form is emerging, and the juices are running amuck.
Let me start by stating that our current cinematic concern is narrative. This is because film is the one of out of all the arts that has the ability to touch us the deepest, and for this, we have the simple use of narrative. We are swept by stories, we engage in them, they can change us, immortalize our condition, bond us to the world, and this dates from a tradition as ancient as I can’t tell.
So cinema has come in and allowed flexibility for all kinds of messy shifting, nested stories, created realities and un-realities, parralel universes, worlds that fold into each other and out to us viewers. Depending on how much you expose yourself to this, you are gradually changing your life, modifying your way of knowing and thinking, adapting to new visualizations, rewriting your history.
In time you will notice that most often the innovation is in the support of the story, the whim that brings it to us, the blowing wind that carries it. What’s at the top is vacuous, it serves as an excuse for producers to sign on, usually cliches of supposedly universal notions. But there were very few of these universal outlooks before the popularity of movies, think about that.
Kaplisch pulls off avoiding the vacuous here (somewhat), because the notion of finding love really has become universal (thanks to movies), and the story here comments precisely on the cinematic aspect of this notion while simulatenously engaging into it.
After this, Klapisch is going on my list of greatest living screenwriters, should he keep it up.
To make sense of things for you, let me rundown the specifics.
- This is the sequel of a movie (L’auberge espagnole) that was about a writer who in the end we found out was writing the entire movie we had just witnessed.
- We suspect he is writing this one as well, and he is.
- To make things more interesting, he is often hired as writer of cheap soap operas, and celebrity biographies (low-level work in writing), and struggles with writing ‘something real’, which is supposedly the movie we are seeing (or a book that in turn is the movie we are seeing).
- There is an orgy of different small stories, some of them are told and lived by our hero, others by his friends, and we are led to suspect that everybody is perpetuating the fraud of selective memory through storytelling; is what we are being told real, or is it written and reduced for a storytelling aesthetic, in the same way the soap operas and celebrity biographies are?
- A reference to fairy tales and the notions of love they carry.
- A reference to Arabian Nights, the source behind all this narrative splurge.
- Voice-over character commentary on the events as they happen, making for shifts in tense.
All of this wonderful mess is tied together by Kelly Reilly who plays a writer as well, aptly so, as she is the only one capable of delivering to us the moral insight of the story.
Ah, and this is where Romain Duris flexes his intelligent muscles, and the reason why he is our French Bobby.
The ending is borrowed from the Hollywood rom com formula. I would usually fault this, but here it’s just another narrative juxtaposed amongst the others, it fits.
Rent this for the ambitious execution, and watch as these devices will become the regular deal in rom coms to come, if we are lucky.