The Town Is Quiet

Director Robert Guédiguian returns to his favorite milieu — working-class Marseilles — for this somewhat crowded, multi-character drama that reveals a vivid cross-section of the city's inhabitants but fails to live up to the director's high ambitions. Co-written by Guédiguian and his longtime collaborator Jean-Louis Milesi, the film is structured...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Director Robert Guédiguian returns to his favorite milieu — working-class Marseilles — for this somewhat crowded, multi-character drama that reveals a vivid cross-section of the city's inhabitants but fails to live up to the director's high ambitions. Co-written by Guédiguian and his longtime collaborator Jean-Louis Milesi, the film is structured around a series of loosely interrelated storylines. After an exhausting shift at the local fishery, Michele (Ariane Ascaride) returns to her dreary hilltop housing block at the crack of dawn to find her teenaged daughter, Fiona (Julie-Marie Parmentier), sneaking in the front door. Michele knows Fiona is seriously addicted to heroin and, rather than caring for her baby, is prostituting herself for drug money. But there's little Michele can do; in a desperate attempt to help her only child, Michele uses what little money she earns to buy Fiona's smack herself, and enlists the help of an old flame, Gerard (Gérard Meylan), to supply her with heroin. Elsewhere in the city, Paul (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) has chosen to accept the severance package management has offered about-to-strike dock workers and buys himself an expensive taxi. His father, Jean (Jacques Boudet), applauds Paul's decision to betray his union brethren. A bitterly disillusioned Communist, Jean now sees little difference between the weak and hypocritical Left, represented by pompous pundit Yves Froment (Jacques Pieiller), who'd like to transform this worker's city into a tourist playground, and the fascist "National Preference" movement that agitates against France's liberal immigration policy. One afternoon, while cruising for fares, Paul spots Michele on the side of the road trying to start up her motorbike and offers her a lift; awkwardly, he falls in love. In the third and least interesting subplot, music therapist Viviane Froment (Christine Brücher), disgusted by her husband Yves and his flagrant infidelity, allows herself to be seduced by Abderamane (Alexandre Ogou), a handsome African immigrant whom Viviane once taught while he served time in prison. What's good here is very good — Ascaride, who has appeared in most of Guédiguian's films, is a powerful, naturalistic actress — but it's compromised by the inclusion of too many underdeveloped characters who never become more than two-dimensional emblems of pressing social problems. The time and effort would have been better spent on Michele, Paul and Gerard; their stories form the crux of the film, and a little more attention might have rendered their actions less inexplicable and a little more convincing.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Review: Director Robert Guédiguian returns to his favorite milieu — working-class Marseilles — for this somewhat crowded, multi-character drama that reveals a vivid cross-section of the city's inhabitants but fails to live up to the director's high ambit… (more)

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