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This review is from: Look At Me [DVD] (DVD)
I agree totally with the comment about Agnes Jaoui being some sort of national treasure in France. Her "Les goutes des autres" is a masterpiece of film making and this effort shares it's mult-layered and clever construction but doesn't quite have the same degree of humour which made the other such a delight. This is probably due to the fact that the juxtaposition of industry and art allowed the opportunity for sharp observations between the relationship of both fields. Here, the theme is more about social skills or lack of them in the case of the film's best character! This effort concentrates upon two couples, the men both being writers, one already established and the other on the cusp of success. The wife of the latter is the music coach to the former's daughter and this is the thread that essentially binds all the characters together. Additional characters like agents, publishers and the daughter's would-be boyfriend all get woven into the tapestry and, after a slow start during which the foundations of the story are built up, Jauoi (who also acts in this film) allows the film to develop by allowing the character's with their conflicting interests to bounce off each other in wry fashion. Foe me, it is the sparkling dialogue which marks Jauoi's films as being so agreable.
Essentially, the main thrust of the film concerns the daughter of the older author who is trying to establish herself as a singer and her father's spectular lack of interest despite her talent. The daughter, who is clearly within her rights to feel totally agrieved, is similarly insensative to her would-be suitor. Jean-Pierre Bacri is a mainstay of Jauoi's films (in real life they are partners) and, as opposed to the rather bumbling characters in "Les goutes" or "Let's talk about the rain" , plays in this film the selfish father with absolutely no empathy with his daughter. Whilst this is seemingly against character from other films I have seen him in, Bacri is the best thing in this film and much of the appeal in the whole effort comes from watching the insensitive manner with which he manages to blindly tread on everyone else's toes. No less comic than his other creations, his caustic remarks are amusing. However, all the characters are all nicely drawn and Jaoui's sharp eye for human behaviour ensures that there is much in this film to relish. Effectively, this film is an ensemble piece. The Graham Norton-esque TV interview to promote the new book by the "new generation author" and the book launch allow some cynical observations to reign which did make me smile.
I feel the analogy with Woody Allen is extremely inaccurate as the humour is very subtle and the entertainment is reliant upon the sharp and perceptive dialogue as opposed to anything that will make you laugh out loud. If anything, the observations in this film are more akin to something like the BBC's "Outnumbered" but obviously raised to suit an audience that is expecting to be challenged a bit beyond the 30 minute mark. As with all her films, the construction of the storyline illustrates genuine skill and whilst this doesn't quite achieve the magnificance of "Les goutes.." I felt that this was more satisfactory than "Lets talk about the rain" where the lose ends of the ensemble cast were not allowed to join up in the satisfying fashion of her other films. If you enjoy gentle, well-observed and intelligent humour, this is definately worth checking out.