Wednesday 26 October 2016

Film: 'Valley of Love'

Very unusual, this. Despite its dreadful English title, which is apparently also used in France (director, Guillaume Lecloux) it's set in and around Death Valley, Calif., and stars Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu - their duologue (which comprises 95% of the film's talk) being entirely in French.

They play a long-divorced couple having been out of contact with one another for years (she, now re-married but in the throes of another divorce, he still single) brought together by each getting letters from their son some months previously, in which the son tells them that he has now killed himself, without proffering them any reason why. He'd become estranged from both of them years before, they not having concerned themselves too much with his withdrawal from their lives, though they know that he had gone to live in San Francisco with his male lover. But the most curious thing about the letter is that he says he will briefly re-appear to them on a day when they are at one of the seven official Death Valley view-sites at a certain time, meaning that at that particular hour for a week they must be at one of the locations. Of course, they have no idea about what he could mean, they having travelled from their homes in France, but now their meeting up again dredges up a range of recriminations on both sides about their past, though a residual affection between the two of them keeps resurfacing in spite of their bickering moments. It's Depardieu who is the more sceptical of the two of them by a long way - which begs the question as to why did he bother to come, though the son did stipulate that they must both be there together.

As you can surmise, very big, mysterious questions are raised from early on in the film. I can tell you now that those who demand resolutions are going to feel short-changed by the time of the final credits, which is very much the way with filmic riddles these days. I didn't feel dissatisfied at all. There were very faint echoes of one of my all-time favourite films, 'Picnic at Hanging Rock', which left its audience gasping for answers, yet was brilliantly effective. I don't class this new film anywhere near the exemplary exercise in mystery that was 'Picnic', though the conclusion of things left in the air was extremely similar.

I've also got to say that Depardieu (now 67) has become huge, with a belly as big as two barrels. (Luckily, the film is in widescreen!) His spending much of the time here without a shirt - because of the oppressive heat, even though it was supposed to be November! - is a less than savoury sight. 
Huppert at 53, manages to look younger than she actually is.

I thought both lead roles were marvellously acted - their showing in alternate fashion both tetchiness and mutual affection.

For myself, I found considerable satisfaction with the film, much more than some of the unenthusiastic reviews I've seen. I'd recommend it quite strongly, but with the sole proviso that you're prepared to come away from it with questions remaining unanswered.....................7.


  1. Alas Ray, I doubt very much that this will come here. We only get the big ones and nothing with subtitles. :( Gerard was very good in Bergerac and I liked him in bogus.

    1. It was showing at one of Brighton's art-house cinemas for just one night and one morning, Sol, so I was lucky to catch it - and it was well worth the effort and expense.

      I did like Cyrano with G.D. in the title role. For some reason I missed 'Bogus' and I can't think why. The title doesn't even ring any bells. Will look out for it if it comes on telly, which I don't think it has, despite being 20 years old.

    2. I think it is more a kids film. It is about a kid with an imaginary friend.

    3. Yes, I read the precis on IMDb and am wondering how widespread the cinema release was here - though with that cast it ought to have had a wide one. Still can't recall it though. Maybe memory faults are setting in now - oh well!

  2. This one I certainly will be seeing, especially with two of France's top actors. I still remember the first time I saw Depardieu many years ago in "Get Out Your Handkerchiefs." Wow! Time is a thief. You have to give him credit for letting it all hang out.

    FYI, This is yet another one that bypassed the theaters here. Fortunately, here in America, it is available on Netflix streaming. I will be watching this one this weekend, along with another film that also bypassed the theaters - "Marguerite" which you reviewed some time ago.

    Thanks to your reviews, I am seeing some worthwhile films that I would not have been aware of.

    1. I'd not even heard of the 'Handkerchiefs' film, Paul, but, goodness me, I see it was such a long time ago.
      I suppose that G.D. was brave in showing his upper body as it really is. Must admit his belly in this is so enormous that I kept looking for signs to show me it was a prosthetic enlargement. If it was it was very well done - though what would have been the point of it anyway? I'm pretty sure it was authentic, and he must surely be aware of what it looks like.

      I think you'll like 'Marguerite' though for you it'll be after you've seen 'Jenkins', which I'm assuming you'll have seen by now. Comparisons are inevitable, naturally, but I think it would help to appreciate Marguerite more if one hadn't already seen 'F.F.J.' But let's see what you think.