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Mademoiselle Chambon (Blu-ray Review)

30 Nov, 2010 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 12/7/10
Kino Lorber
Box Office $0.5 million
$29.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray
Not rated.
In French with English subtitles.
Stars Vincent Lindon, Sandrine Kiberlain, Aure Atika.

French movies have long been influenced by 1960s documentary-style filmmaking known as “cinéma vérité,” in which (sometimes tedious) everyday occurrences, habits and interactions are used to help convey elements of a story.

Thus, endearing 2009 César (French Oscar) winner Mademoiselle Chambon begins with lengthy scenes of construction worker Jean (veteran everyman actor Vincent Lindon) ripping up tile with a jackhammer, and then together with pretty wife Anne-Marie (Aure Atika) helping their grade-school son with grammar lessons — all with little or no dialogue.

It’s enough to make an impatient viewer scream, “Merde!” while reaching for the remote control.

But patience is eventually rewarded when Anne-Marie strains her back at work (more languid shots), is confined to bed rest, and Jean must pick up the son from school. There he meets the boy’s substitute teacher/violin player Véronique Chambon (Sandrine Kiberlain), and slowly there begins an emotional undertow between both of them.

Kiberlain is simply spectacular — her face described by one critic “like someone out of a Modigliani painting” — conveying divergent emotions with nary a spoken word. Jean, a gentle giant with puppy dog eyes, soon develops affection for musical sonatas — especially those that remind him of Véronique.

However improbable, true love can materialize at inopportune times (Anne-Marie announces she is pregnant), and soon this “Beauty and the Beast” saga between middle-age adults requires grown-up answers.

Directed by Stéphane Brizé and based on a novel by Éric Holder, the chemistry between Jean and Véronique is aided by the fact Lindon and Kiberlain were once married in real life and have a 10-year-old son together.

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