Let's Talk About the Rain (2008)
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"Parlez-moi de la pluie" (literal translation: "Speak to me about the rain") takes its title from an old French song by Georges Brassens called "L'Orage" ("The Storm"), a humorously tragic diddy about a man who has a 1-time affair with the wife of a lightning-arrester salesman during a thunderstorm. Unfortunately, the song never appears in the film although it does feature a snippet of the beautifully nostalgic "Twelfth of Never" by Nina Simone. What is the significance of the title? I'm still not sure, but the film definitely investigates the theme of covert/forbidden love and the purgatory of those who dwell in such affairs ("the other woman" or "the other man").
There are 3 love stories intertwined: A filmmaker is making a documentary about a feminist activist who happens to be the sister of the woman he is having a secret affair with, while secondly, the activist is having trouble with her own love life because her boyfriend feels that her career is her only true love, and thirdly, the filmmaker's assistant is a married man growing increasingly tempted by the overtures of a young woman he knows at work. Add to the jumble the fact that the assistant is the son of the maid who has worked in the activist's home all her life, and you have a bona fide Shakespearean comedy of errors, right?
Well, not exactly. And this is where my "American idiot" possibly comes in: I just didn't find the script to be very funny. The movie is listed as a comedy, so I assume I was supposed to laugh, but instead I found myself taking the situations very seriously. The funniest bits came from the filmmaker (played by Jean-Pierre Bacri) who we soon learn is a bumbling idiot behind the camera. Bacri's hushed arguments with his assistant (Jamel Debbouze, famous for his role as the grocery boy in "Amélie") were pretty funny and served to freshen things up every few minutes. Other than that, I felt like this was a pretty serious drama, heavy on interpersonal relationships and the complexities of social barriers that we impose upon ourselves. If you're ready for something like that, not a breezy comedy by any means, then you might enjoy this film.
While investigating the barriers of love & marriage, the film also focuses on social/racial barriers. Here I thought the film did an excellent job due to Jamel Debbouze's brilliant acting. Since he is the son of the activist's maid, he is conventionally subordinate to her and her family, even though they are now working together as equals. His facial expressions and short words say it all, like the scene where they are all having a garden party at an immaculately set table, and his mother is serving them. Jamel refuses to sit down and doesn't eat or drink anything, though nobody seems to notice his furious defiance. Later in the film, as his oppression comes to a boil, he exposes his "employers" with a powerful monologue--not about overt racism but about the insidious mockery of civilized bigotry that the elite commit without even knowing it. It really makes you stop and look at your own life, wondering if you may be guilty of the same offense.
And it's that last bit (and Jamel's memorable performance) that makes this a worthwhile film even though the comedy may fall short. Perhaps in France people understand the humor better. I do speak French but I still didn't really get any big laughs. But in the end I thought this was a nice character-driven story of everyday life. Agnès Jaoui's work has been compared to that of famed French director Eric Rohmer, and I can definitely see similarities to Rohmer's films like "A Tale of Springtime" in which simple conversations engender complicated human interactions. On the American side of the camera she reminds me of indy film darling Miranda July ("The Future", "Me and You and Everyone We Know") but without July's quirky humor. Or maybe Janoui's humor is there but I just didn't get it because I'm an American idiot ;)
Here we meet the high-heeled Parisian feminist, who according to the rules she keeps, has decided to have a boyfriend, decided to live alone, decided to have no children. A success story, worth a documentary to the old humbug disillusioned film-maker and the younger and more idealistic Karim of Arabian origin. By the way, Karim's mother works as a maiden in the household of the high-heeled feminist's sister.
This is funny and intelligent and not sensational. You won't remember it, but in some ways, you won't forget it either.
With little to no plot at all, Let's Talk About the Rain tells the paper thin story of a group of individuals loosely connected through family, friends and colleagues. The central figures of this collage come in the form of incompetent documentary film-maker Michel Ronsard (Jean-Pierre Bacri), his talented assistant Karim (Jamel Debbouze) and their subject; a successful politician and feminist Agathe Villanova (Agnès Jaoui). Using these characters and those around them Jaoui does well to tell an engaging story that slowly unravels the layers of dynamism between her personalities, whether it is through friendship, family, business or most importantly, love. Moving at a snail's pace from beginning to end, it's easy to get a little despondent when watching Let's Talk About the Rain go over its incessant need to analyse and document the mundane and largely inconsequential moments that these characters share, yet there are also plenty of scenes which carry with them much more finely focused intent. Such moments will usually establish the best parts of these characters through their ultimate bonding either through a smile or even a kiss, and it's here that Jaoui shows her real talent for creating resonating character drama. Unfortunately, with a plot that fails to drive anything forward, an abundance of inconsequential indulgences stops the feature from ever taking off.
The strongest element of this exercise comes in the form of Jaoui and her fellow cast members who all share a nice sense of chemistry between each other, and do just as well on their own too. Jean-Pierre Bacri gets the most chuckles here, playing the bumbling but well-intentioned film-maker who is too often a slave to his eyes and those around him. Jamel Debbouze plays it close to many of his previous works, conveying the rather withdrawn but intelligent and gifted assistant to Bacri. As good as he works with Bacri however, it is his scenes with Florence Loiret (who plays as his love interest outside of a neglected marriage) that serve as key highlights, culminating in a sentimental kiss scene that carries with it an astounding amount of feeling. Jaoui herself is spot on and obviously knows the ins and outs of her character enough to complement those around her and also to give the feature a sense of purpose that is too often lacking from the script. As a whole, the entire cast give flawless performances that do the best with what they are given to work with; which unfortunately isn't that much, but fulfils the purpose that Jaoui seems to striving for.
Despite the many wonderful features of Let's Talk About the Rain however, the film too often falters beneath its own weight. Heavy with character but extremely light on plot, themes or discussion, Jaoui's script too often feels imbalanced the point of stultifying irrelevancy. It's an effort that would have served much fairer on a small screen and limited to half its run time, and as such there's no denying that a lot of what goes on here is shameful navel-gazing for the sake of exercise. Leaving a screening of Let's Talk About the Rain, one is likely to have a feeling of fulfilment, but at the cost of quite a few wasted minutes. Pristine in its development of character and performances, there's a lot to love about Jaoui's latest work, but a lack of focus and point leaves the experience needlessly tiring. Followers of slow, meditative character studies will get a kick out of what is present here, but patience is certainly required and as such all but the most avid of cinephilles would be best to give this one a miss; Jaoui is speaking to a small audience here.
- A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)
Karim, a front desk clerk from a local hotel, and an aspiring film maker, decides to make a documentary about Agathe Villanova, a politician, to get her angle on a lot of subjects where her experience will prove well worth telling. For this project he enlists Michel Ronsard, who has directed his own documentaries. Their two man team could not be more different. Agathe's views on racism and sexism are what Karim is trying to capture as the essence for the film.
Agathe, who has come to spend some time with her sister Florence in this part of the Provance, where the family lived. Agathe has come to help her sister sort out things after the death of their mother. What Agathe is not counting is her sister's resentment because she has gone to become somewhat notorious and a minor celebrity. Florence herself is involved with Michel in a secret liaison no one suspects. The family reunion turns out to be an occasion for rehashing the past.
This has been one of the three films by its director, and star, Agnes Jaoui, we have found less involving. Basically, it is a rambling film that goes nowhere, nor does it solve any of the tensions between the two sisters, or even gets the documentary done because of the constant interruptions experienced in the shooting. Ms. Jaoui, who also acts in all her films, is an enigma in this one. What she has accomplish is making a better movie than it should have been in the way uses music to paraphrase each sequence, by her use of the excellent music selections that perhaps gives the viewer hope that what will follow will be better. There is a recurring motif sung by the King Singers of Schubert's "Der Goldenfahrer" that haunts the viewer's mind long after the film is over. Ms. Jaoui also selected music from Vivaldi, Nina Simone, and even a Cuban carnival ensemble that adds another layer to the picture.
Jean-Pierre Bacri, the director's collaborator and former husband, makes a good case for Michel Rosand, a documentary maker that shows he has no clue in how to bring the project to the screen, or even has any affinity with the son he is supposed to be entertaining, but who begs to go away with a friend. Jamel Debbouze is seen as Karim. Pascalle Arbillot is Florence and Mimouna Hadji seems to be a natural in her take of the loyal servant.
"Parlez-moi de la pluie" is a mildly amusing comedy.
I speak French, but I am also a linguist with translation background, so I am always interested in Dubbing. I noticed that when you get to the Arabic parts of the movie, no dubbing is provided. Instead this phrase is used Arabic Speaking, as if there are no Arabic speakers to help translate that section, or even worse, as if the content and intent of those sections are of little import, to bother with translating them. Omitting those sections from the Dubbing, reduces the impact, and does not provide a full experience to the user.
Just saying. Would be more than happy to provide the translation, free of cost.
There is no real character development for any of the characters. The dialog is not interesting. The few shots of Provence are nothing special. The movie, in short, is nothing special.
Michel, nearly fifty, aspires to be a reporter-filmmaker that he didn't succeed to be so far. It is, actually, a clumsy, nonchalant guy, who doesn't do right what he intend to, and relieves his frustration smoking joints. He is divorced, has a teenage son with whom he spends a weekend once in a while, and is having a future less affair with Florence's sister, Agathe, who is married to Stéphane.
Florence, nearly forty, Agathe's sister, is married to Stephane. They have two children. But she feels miserable with her housewife life, along with a husband who has no energy to solve the shaky family financial situation. She seems to bet on her relationship with Michel to get free from her situation. This way of seeing the future makes her a kind of a bovarist.
Karim, has qualities that were frustrated by his humble origins and perhaps also because he lived all his life in a small town where the opportunities are scarce. He is the son of a maid (Mimouna) born in the Maghreb, and who works for Florence and lives in the house of this latter. Karim works as a receptionist in a small and modest hotel, down town. He is skilled in film mounting and tries to get free of his mediocre situation as a receptionist, working on projects of Michel, who rarely reach an end, because of Michel style.
Agathe, lives currently in Paris (she developed a career away from that Midi where things are rather stuck). She has a comfortable social position, and is successful professionally as a politician. She visits the small town where she spend her childhood, to tackle some political issues, and problems related with the heritage left by her mother. At the beginning of history, she looks like some one who is well resolved psychologically. But throughout the film we realize that this is not true. Her passage through the small town triggers the hole story.
Mimouna, mother of Karim, comes from the Maghreb. She has been working for many years for the Villanova family, since when they lived in Algeria (?). In the past, she babysitted Florence and Agathe who have a strong relationship with her. She lives apart from her husband who abandoned the family in circumstances apparently nasty.