8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2008
Saw this movie first at the cinema and then on DVD here in Australia (DVD rental Bigpond) and loved it, absolutely loved it, as did my husband. It doesnt matter if you arent a GD fan at all, as the themes, settings, acting and music in this movie make it an absolute delight. But he is superb in this, you are totally convinced of his part in the role. Gerard is an absolute delight.
It is one of those movies you can pull out every so often and enjoy once again and again. It wont matter how many times you had already seen it.
That's why I want my own copy. Have already got the music CD. My only disappointment is that I have to wait until the end of February for my own copy of the DVD.
Enjoy this one time and time again. Its fun, uplifting and pure joy.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2008
The main magic of the film is: the songs. I don't pretend to be a fan of French chanson and in particular not of the kind of song presented here, easy listening for ageing people's tea-parties (more or less), but while watching this film I was almost tempted to get hold of the soundtrack. The music so perfectly fits the mood of the film and creates that perfectly French atmosphere of melancholy, desire and hopelessness, that you forget that it wouldn't work (at least not for me) beyond the film.
Depardieu is an ageing chanson singer who has had is day and now plays in a few clubs of his home town. He is famous enough to be able to do what he wants, but is emotionally disillusioned as he is mainly used by women to get back at their cheating husbands. Then he surprisingly falls in love with a much younger woman and he realizes that there's still life left in him and what he really wants.
Don't expect this film to have a happy ending, though: It's a French film. I'd say the ending was realistic, if slightly sad.
The film is not fast-paced, in fact nothing of real note ever happens. But the emotional intensity of the actors and the stories of the lives they portray keep you involved, if not glued to the screen.
I'd give it three and a half stars, if halves were available.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Singer - or Quand j'étais chanteur for those of you keen enough to want to know - is a lovely little film set in the seedy bars and restaurants of France that play host to the single, divorced, widowed and generally most bored or lovesick characters to be found. Into this arena is thrown Alain Moreau (Gerard Depardieu), who is a famous semi-talented performer at these places and also one of their own - he too is single and sad. When Marion - (Cecile De France) a woman who would not normally fit in at one of these places - attends one of Moreau's performances she is strangely attracted to him, and so begins an unlikely romance between this beautiful young woman and the overweight, ageing Singer.
In order to appreciate the quality of this film you have to understand a little of its construction. The songs used in the film are meant to take the viewer back in time to the days when 'the crooner' was the saviour of the bored housewife or the flirty 'bacheloress', but at the same time Depardieu's humorous performance shows how outdated they are; his weight, age and small talent are all exagerrated for effect and it works very well, but for the general viewer the limited possibility of a romance between the two main characters may confuse this humour and make them miss the entire point of the film. If you don't care abour what this film is trying to show, then I'd say quite honestly don't bother because it is full of meaning and will be a confusing bore to you. But if you have the patience and interest then it is great... I wouldn't quite say (as others have) that The Singer is a return to form for Depardieu, but he and the rest of the cast carry their characters off well enough to keep the film in shape. Cinematography is average here.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
which is a translation of the original, and better, French title.
D'accord! J'ai cru ca .... Sorry, I'll start again.
The story is simple: a somewhat cheesy, albeit moderately talented, aging singer who plays dance halls, and anywhere else he can get a gig and largely to an older audience, becomes obsessed with a younger woman with whom he has sex shortly after they first meet but, embarrassed, she leaves. The rest of the film depicts her gradual involvement in his life.
Because Depardieu is such a physical presence on-screen, it's easy to forget just what a good actor he is. Here, as Alain Moreau, he gives a fine and nuanced performance making the character vividly real in all its painful warts and all humanity. Cecile de France plays the object of his desire, a short-haired slim blonde, in a controlled performance of a woman not as in control of her own life as she would like.
The songs, as cheesy as the singer, were unfamiliar to me and, like the dialogue, all in French (but with excellent subtitles), nevertheless they convey a commentary of sorts on the life of Alain Moreau as he sings them.
Overall this is a movie in a minor key, but the key is played very well and this is a minor but definite pleasure.
It also highlights a difference between British and French culture. All the characters smoke. A lot.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 October 2010
I have just finished watching this film - and I still sense a certain detachment which only the very best films make me feel. There are criticisms on here of the music, of the lack of connection between the two main characters. Perhaps this is a film that is all to easy to over analyse. To those detractors of this film, I ask you to watch it again - this time without thought to Gerard's voice - or the plausibility of their relationship. Let the undercurrent of the film flow through. This is not a film about success, this is not a film about failure.
The film portrays a flawed but utterly beleivable main charachter who has to deal with his Life decisions whilst combating the uncertain present. I think that GD's character does not look too far into the future - 2 tenses are more than enough for him to deal with. This is a film about life, complete with an array of emotions from regret, lust, loneliness, compassion and understanding. It is beautifully acted and directed. The mood set in the Dance Halls really makes you feel as if you're in a chair at the back of the hall. If I have anything negative to say about this film it is about the stereotyping of an ageing French Singer on the wane. He simply smokes far too many cigarette's in this film. Even though this will be certainly down to a widely believed acceptability - I still think that films have a duty to try to educate as well as entertain and a few less ciggy's would not have gone amiss.
Top film and one for the collection to add to a string of fine French Films which have come down the turnpike over the years.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Okay, I know, the title is a bit unfair. In truth though Depardieu has been wasting his talents in mediocre fare of late. I really like much he has done in the past but in truth really wasn't expecting much from this.
It's a simple set-up, Alain,(Depardieu), is a club singer doing the circuit when he meets Marion,(Cecile de France), and the two end up spending the night together. A relationship of sorts blossoms but the two are doomed to never fulfill the promise of love.
This has been billed as a French 'wedding singer' but it really isn't. Depardieu has an okay voice but that's not what counts here. At long last he returns to his best acting form with a performance that is both touching & likeable as a man on the downward slope who falls in love & fumbles his chance. Alongside him de France is beautiful, vulnerable & scared of being hurt. The two spark & produce a believable relationship.
There is a great atmosphere,much of which is generated by the carefully chosen songs, that at first shows well the ambience of dance halls & functions but subtly things begin to change & what was a casual meeting builds into sad & inevitable ending. This is French cinema doing what it does best, subtlety, charm, love and sadness.
The whole idea could have just been a bore and no doubt in the hands of a US director & actors it would have played out by the numbers but this is nuanced & touching with the usual French flair for unsentimental realism.
This is easily recommended & bears up to repeated viewings. Depardieu & de France are excellent and if you are more interested in fine acting & directing then there is so much for you to enjoy here.
A fine return to form for mr. Depardieu!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Xavier Giannoli's Quand J'étais Chanteur aka The Singer isn't a great film, but it's a very good character piece that's lifted to a higher level by Gerard Depardieu in a superb return to form after years of slumming it in well paid but increasingly undemanding production line efforts.
Alain Moreau (Depardieu) is an ageing singer trading on forgotten hits to get gigs on the provincial nightclub circuit - tea dances, openings, office parties, old folks homes or restaurants where the diners don't even notice when he takes a break, he's strictly smalltime and he knows it. Singing songs with lyrics like 'You know those photos of Asia/That I shot on 200 ASA' and practising his pickup technique on bored wives and girlfriends during a break in his act for a tombola, his job is to get them to drink champagne - "They don't care about the songs, so I'm often just singing for myself." That threatens to change when one-night stand Cecile De France's realtor walks out on him and he starts to pursue her, first out of wounded pride but later out of genuine need as he begins to realise what's missing from his life. Not that it's a typical romance - the only way he can get close to her long enough to work his way past her defences is to spend weeks looking at houses he won't buy.
While it sounds like the setup for either a broad comedy or Le Fabuleaux Boulangere Garcon, it's rather more unexpected. De France's character is struggling to get over the collapse of her disastrous marriage and even as affection starts to grow between them, the best that's on offer is a rebound relationship based on the fact that she can't see him a serious longterm proposition. Nor, it's revealed, is it the first time that Depardieu's singer has had such a romantic epiphany, with his ex-wife and manager (Christine Citti) recognising all the signs, resenting the possibility that he wants to give another the kind of family life he denied her. Yet it's not a bitter film, more a wistful one about relations born more of quiet desperation at what's missing rather than real love. It's no accident that he falls for her when his career is increasingly under threat from karaoke, DJs and the realisation that his voice may not hold out much longer.
De France and a largely wasted Mathieu Almaric are excellent, but it's clearly Depardieu's show. It's tempting to see similarities in Depardieu's own career, having gone from working with the best directors in Europe on great films to doing the rounds of cameos in increasingly perfunctory international co-productions, but perhaps the chief delight of the film is seeing the star rediscovering his own talent through the film with a performance that ranks among his very best. Unlike his character, there's not a trace of vanity in his performance as he happily chats away with France about highlighting his hair or his tanning regime like a schoolgirl (at one point he even sings about feeling like a girl!), managing a perfect balancing act between the singer's mediocrity and his dignity. It's a fully rounded portrait beautifully realised that you can even overlook the fact that (perhaps deliberately) he's not much of a singer, though he's at his best in end credits with a truly delightful rendition of the title song (When I Was a Singer) when the character has reconciled himself to his life. It's almost worth the price of admission on its own, but thanks to Depardieu there's much more going for it than that. Well worth a look.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Singer is perhaps everything you'd expect a French 'romantic comedy' to be -- which means it is nothing at all like the usual, feelgood, sentimental cinema we're force-fed from Amerrygoland. Depardieu gives a touching and understated performance as an aging, overweight and distinctly un-glam dance-hall crooner, who falls hard for a striking young woman.
The plot summary sounds like The Singer will be end-to-end cliches, but instead of polished soppiness this film is populated with convoluted characters, ones with spiky tempers and wounded feelings. The mis-matched couple rub each other up the wrong way, are thwarted by insecurity, jealousy and their fear of making mistakes. Essentially, they behave like real people rather than movie stars.
The Singer contains some scenes which are simply beautifully shot (nothing happens in them, but it doesn't happen with a simple elegance), and some which do make you laugh out loud. But it's not a jolly film. In fact it was pretty brave of Depardieu to take on a role which does not flatter him in the slightest (although it gives him an excellent opportunity to put in a memorable performance).
The Singer is maybe less about an awkward couple and rather more about being happy with who you are, and being satisfied with where you are. Very French, in that respect. Oh, and the title should be translated as 'When I Was A Singer', which explains far more about the film than the truncated English version it's been given.
Oh, and don't be put off by the amount of singing; even if it's not your kind of music, the lyrics are thoroughly bizarre and worth reading for their own sake!
An enjoyable, gentle and slightly sad movie. Perfect for fans of continental films, but less rewarding if you enjoy the Americanised Depardieu of the Green Card era.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2008
This was a lovely, quiet little film with a fantastic performance from Gerard Depardieu, his best performance in many years. (And I love the added touch of him living in a run down cottage with a pet goat.)
The romance is entirely different than what we're used to seeing but it's very realistic and effective.
It is Mathieu Amalric, though, that the camera loves. It is difficult to take your eyes off him when he's on the screen with his brief part as Gerard's friend and love rival for the heroine.