The French title, translated as When I Was a Singer, would have been a better title for the Anglo-Saxon world also; the film is about a dance-hall crooner, Alain Moreau, well past his prime who, in a futuristic closing sequence, looks back over his career with the song Quand J'Etais Chanteur. The star is, of course, the amazing Gerard Depardieu, who has now appeared in over 170 films in a 40-year career. Although I have seen only a few of them I have never seen him more charismatic than here. He sings the songs himself, proving that he could have had a passable, though not as profitable, career in that field.
Alain's manager is his ex-wife, but the central drama is between him and Marion (Cecile de France), a single mother half his age who works as an estate agent. Following an initial passion they develop a mainly platonic relationship, though it becomes clear that Alain retains a romantic longing for her. Why Marion was initially so attracted to him, especially as she was unaware of his local fame (in the Clermont-Ferrand area), is never really explained. When, following a throat infection from which he recovers, Alain flees from performing in a huge stadium with the real-life pop star Christophe, it is clear that his career is well on the wane.
After seeing the film, the emotion which immediately came to mind was that of melancholy. It is very enjoyable, the songs are foot-tappingly good (though they wouldn't appeal to present-day clubbers), and their lyrics invariably suit what the characters are thinking and feeling. The young director, Xavier Giannoli, never betrays his inexperience in a big-budget exercise. But the film belongs to the great Depardieu, whose career has certainly not declined like that of the character he plays here.