Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene: Let it Rain

With a big storm hovering over the Northeast this weekend, I did my best to prepare beforehand. I made the obligatory stops at the supermarket, the pet store, the gas station, etc. I also dropped into the library to grab a couple of extra books, you know, just in case we were stuck indoors with no power for days and the several dozen unread books I have at home wouldn't be enough. ;) I also considered grabbing a movie while I was there, which wouldn't be very helpful in the case of a power outage but would be good if we were just stuck indoors for a couple of days. As the latter turned out to be the case, it was a good idea that I had grabbed a movie at the last minute. When I was passing by the movie display at the library and still debating whether or not I wanted to spend the time rifling through them all in hopes of finding one I had both never seen before and was interested in seeing, my eyes fell on the one near the top of a pile, which was aptly named Let It Rain. I picked it up and thought the description sounded appealing, so away it came with me and I was happy to have found something without having wasted any time at all.

As Let It Rain is hardly a Hollywood blockbuster movie, I thought I would write about it here to make anyone interested aware of this little gem. This is a French film (subtitles available in English) directed by Agnes Jaoui and co-written by Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri, a pair who, by the way, are married in real life. Jaoui and Bacri also co-star in the movie, along with Jamel Dabbouze (who played Lucien in a little film called Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain). Let It Rain is to some degree an example of metafilm, a movie which is about the process of making movies. Michel (Bacri) and Karim (Dabbouze) are local amateur filmmakers who decide to embark on a project filming successful women. The only successful woman they know is Agathe (Jaoui), a best-selling feminist author, a political candidate, and the employer of Karim's housekeeper mother. Supporting characters include Agathe's companion Antoine, her sister Florence and brother-in-law Stephane, Karim's wife Severine and his flirtatious co-worker Aurelie, and Michel's son Guillaume, in addition to the aforementioned mother of Karim.

Let me be clear from the outset. If you like movies that are plot-driven, this is not the movie for you. Materially, excepting perhaps Karim's mother, not much has changed for the characters from the beginning of the movie to the end. Perhaps this is rightly so, as the movie is supposed to take place over about 10 days only, so it would be quite a stretch of the imagination to see the entire lives of these people change dramatically in that time. Nevertheless, enough happens over those days to make the characters examine their motivations and perhaps re-consider some of their values. Therefore, if you like understated movies where you spend a lot of time getting to know the characters, then you might want to check this movie out.

All of the actors did a great job in this movie, but I have to say, I think Bacri stole the day when it came to comedy. There were several lines or scenes where his mishaps were downright hysterical. One of my favorite comic moments was when Karim and Agathe finally hit a good repartee during the interview only to find out that Michel had not been filming them that whole time as he was supposed to be doing. Another great scene was Michel's filming of the baptism towards the end. Comic genius.

Speaking of filming, the cinematography of Let It Rain was spot on. There were perhaps not as many rainy days in the movie as I might have expected given the title and description (or perhaps I was just biased by the deluge I had recently seen), but this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The soundtrack was also great; I especially enjoyed the instrumental piece that played a few times during montage scenes. The various tensions seen between the characters makes the movie simultaneously comedic and dramatic. The relationship between sisters Agathe and Florence was particularly interesting to me; if there was anything I would change about the movie, it would perhaps be to see more of these two interacting and learning a bit more about their history, especially their childhood and their mother who clearly favored one daughter over the other for inexplicable reasons (or, perhaps it is more accurate to say, reasons not delved into in the movie). But that is something that makes a movie like Let It Rain so rich. It is a slice of life movie, the type of movie which makes you feel as though these characters had a life before this movie began and will continue to have one afterward. It's not as though a movie failed in giving you appropriate closure; it's that a movie succeeded in portraying characters so real that you forget they aren't actual people. For that reason, Let It Rain is a movie worth seeing - hurricane or no hurricane.

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