0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2012
I'd been looking forward to this for a long time. Daniel Auteuil, along with Gerard Depardieu, are for me the finest actors of my generation and they never disappoint. Watch Auteuil in Un Coeur en Hiver for a masterclass in understatement and emotional truth. Jean-Pierre Darroussin is one of the few French actors who can match him on screen; and in Conversations with my Gardener, perhaps because he has the better role, I think Darroussin quietly steals the honours. I'd love to see what Auteuil could have done with the part. He doesn't do anything here that he hasn't done elsewhere, and he's never really stretched. The film starts wonderfully with a very slow establishing shot of the countryside until Darroussin enters the frame on his worn out moped. Jean Becker has always been a director in the mould of Renoir and I immediately felt in safe hands. The first mis-step and misjudgement comes early on though with the introduction of Auteuil as a jazz playing city-type down from Paris. The mood is broken; we're told rather than shown, and a huge cliche intrudes. From here on the pacing isn't quite right, the camera doesn't quite linger enough and there is rather too much dialogue, some of which borders on the obvious and the trite. Scene changes are too quick, too episodic, and the relationship between the two men doesn't grow naturally or slowly enough. The fishing metaphor is too well worn to be convincing and the very fine talent of Hiam Abbass, playing Darroussin's wife, is wasted. She is a beautiful screen presence and more could have been made of her character towards the end. Instead we are left with little more than an 'Algerian shadow' to the edge of screen, and it faintly suggests a politics that is surely not intentional. Perhaps I need to check out the original source novel. All that apart, it's a film that can reward repeated viewings and you still have two of the finest actors in the world in a warm and affectionate tale of male friendship. It's just a pity that its potential wasn't quite realised, as it could arguably have been another Jean de Florette or Manon des Source.