Happenstance

Episodic, pretentious, and more than a little silly, writer/director Laurent Firode's meditation on the existential unpredictability of life occasionally feels like a calculated parody of French art-house cinema: It's the kind of movie in which characters chain-smoke endless unfiltered cigarettes, hang around at all hours in coffee houses, and mouth undergraduate...read more

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Reviewed by Steve Simels
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Episodic, pretentious, and more than a little silly, writer/director Laurent Firode's meditation on the existential unpredictability of life occasionally feels like a calculated parody of French art-house cinema: It's the kind of movie in which characters chain-smoke endless unfiltered cigarettes, hang around at all hours in coffee houses, and mouth undergraduate philosophical tropes at the drop of a chapeau. There's no plot, per se; instead, Firode gives us a look at the everyday trials and tribulations of a seemingly unconnected bunch of middle- and working-class Parisians, beginning with an appliance-store salesgirl (Audrey Tautou, of AMELIE), a newly hired museum guard (Eric Feldman), a bunch of folks waiting for the subway, and of course the de rigeur guy cheating on his wife (after all, this a French film). Eventually, everybody's paths begin to cross, however briefly, and after about half an hour, in one of the most egregious "Author's Message" moments in film history, an eccentric old man on a park bench tells the stranger next to him that even your tiniest, most random acts can have enormous, unforeseen consequences for people you may not even know. Firode goes on to dramatize this unarguable thesis in a number of occasionally interesting ways, the most French perhaps being a sequence involving discarded macaroons that are eaten and eventually excreted by passing pigeons. There are some good performances along the way, including French-Algerian pop star Faudel's turn as a moody waiter in an Italian restaurant, and the film is not without a certain vaguely nutty charm, especially if you like pigeon droppings. It all goes on way too long, however, and the ending — in which two of the characters, sporting identical facial bandages, staring gape-mouthed at each other — has a sort of ironically surreal quality that seems to have dropped in from another movie, perhaps a wryly comic re-make of Georges Franju's LES YEUX SANS VISAGE. (In French, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Episodic, pretentious, and more than a little silly, writer/director Laurent Firode's meditation on the existential unpredictability of life occasionally feels like a calculated parody of French art-house cinema: It's the kind of movie in which characters… (more)

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