is too bad this grieving French mother was not in Death Valley for the decennial
“Desert Bloom.” It would have been just the sort of sign she was hoping for.
According to her son’s suicide notes, he promised to visit from beyond if she
and his father (her ex) make a pilgrimage through the landmarks of Death Valley
at certain appointed times. It seems unlikely, particularly to him, but the
guilt they carry compels them to do it anyway in Guillaume Nicloux’s Valley of Love (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
is one thing to give kids their space, but Isabelle and Gérard had not seen
their son Michael in years. Each had later children with subsequent spouses,
leaving Michael as a rather awkward reminder of their previous lives. There was
also the business of his sexuality. Still, his partner reportedly never saw it
coming. According to letters he wrote just before the end, Michael promises to
appear to his parents if they stick to the itinerary he enclosed.
it is because she is more inclined towards New Age hokum or she is just
desperately grasping at straws, Isabelle is determined to follow Michael’s
instructions to the letter. However, Gérard is planning to leave on the seventh
day. That would seem like the most likely day for an appearance, but it was the
only date he could book an appointment with a highly regarded oncology
specialist. It is hard to argue with that, but Isabelle will try.
this is a film for you, because there is an awful lot of man flesh to be seen
within. Unfortunately, almost all of it is the shirtless Gérard Depardieu.
Words fail to describe the spectacle. Still, he deserves credit for baring
himself. At one point, he says to Isabelle: “how can I be happy looking like
this?” (Maybe he could refrain from gorging himself on Putin’s caviar?)
Valley is nowhere near as
self-referential as Nicloux’s previous film, The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, it is clearly no accident
Depardieu and Huppert (who appeared together in Maurice Pialat’s Loulou and Bertrand Blier’s Going Places) are playing their
namesakes. While Nicloux might rely on their on-screen and off-screen
reputations as a bit of character-establishing shorthand, they are largely able
to transcend public personas and become credibly confused and bereaved parents.
We really believe they really resent each other, yet still have some of the old
feelings. Indeed, there is a reason why they are two of the most recognizable
movie stars on the globe, regardless of the wear-and-tear they might show to
the helm, Nicloux manages to walk a real tightrope, including enough supernatural
elements to earn the film a berth at Sitges, yet never resorting to a
traditional genre payoff. He maintains a mysteriously suggestive atmosphere
that helps us buy into the dramatic possibilities. The desert is a mystical
place, so why not?
Even without a wild flower explosion,
cinematographer Christophe Offenstein makes the Death Valley vistas look
spectacular (but also hot and dry). It is an indefinably odd film, but that is
a good thing. Recommended for patrons of French cinema and fans of the two
stars, Valley of Love opens this
Friday (3/25) in New York, at the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center.
Labels: French Cinema, Gerard Depardieu, Isabelle Huppert