Changing Times

While incontrovertibly light compared to contemporary master of melodrama Andre Techine's best work, this 2005 romance is best enjoyed as the welcome reunion of two of French cinema's most beloved stars: Catherine Deneuve and the ubiquitous Gerard Depardieu. Thirty-two years after his one great romance came to an end, Antoine Lavau (Depardieu), now a successful...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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While incontrovertibly light compared to contemporary master of melodrama Andre Techine's best work, this 2005 romance is best enjoyed as the welcome reunion of two of French cinema's most beloved stars: Catherine Deneuve and the ubiquitous Gerard Depardieu. Thirty-two years after his one great romance came to an end, Antoine Lavau (Depardieu), now a successful architect, arrives in Tangiers to oversee the construction of his latest project, an audiovisual center for an Arabic TV news station. The real reason for Antoine's visit, however, is more emotional than professional. Antoine, who has remained a bachelor all his life, is determined to finally reunite with his lost love, Cecile (Deneuve), a local radio personality who now lives just outside the city with her second, younger, Moroccan husband, Natan (Gilbert Melki). Once upon a time, Antoine and Cecile pledged to love each other forever, but Cecile has long since moved on. Coinciding with Antoine's arrival in Tangiers is a surprise visit from Cecile and Natan's bisexual son, Sami (Malik Zidi), who's come from Paris with his Moroccan-born, drug-addicted partner, Nadia (Lubna Azabal), and her 9-year-old son, Said (Jabir Elomri). The ostensible reason for their visit is Nadia's desire for a reunion with her twin sister, Aicha (also Azabal), a deeply devout Muslim who disapproves of Nadia's life. But another reason for the visit is that, like Antoine, Sami is also pursuing a matter of the heart: He misses Bilal (Nadem Rachati), a former lover from Paris now working as a caretaker for a wealthy Tangiers family. Sami's decision to stay with his parents, however, causes friction with Cecile, whom he considers cold and unfeeling, and Cecile's frustrations regarding her idle, indecisive son — who seems drawn to emotional cripples like Nadia — soon surfaces. Cecile's emotional turmoil only intensifies when Antoine makes his sudden reappearance and professes undying devotion. Unlike Techine's more satisfying WILD REEDS and STRAYED — both set during particularly turbulent periods of recent French history — the lovers of this contemporary melodrama seem oddly disconnected from real-world events, even though Antoine's project involves an Al Jazeera-type news agency and occasional news reports of kidnappings in Iraq are heard on the soundtrack. And that may be exactly why the film seems to lack real weight or resonance beyond itself, despite the warm and easy working relationship Deneuve and Depardieu share.

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