Film Review: ODETTE, TOULEMOND
Sometimes you happen upon a little film that is like a travelogue. It takes you to where you want to go on a rainy day. It reminds you why films are a unique art form. They transport us, but more than that, they re-affirm what we love about being human. This little French film is about a dream. It is also about how the French culture can sometimes be constricting and pre-ordained. Dreams, when they present themselves, can surprise you.
The Beginning is two plots; Two Lives
We discover early on that ODETTE has an imagination, a sense of joy about life and in the first scene, she is giving advice behind the cosmetic counter to a woman who has been beaten up by her boyfriend. This is her place, in the world, a life seemingly with out any extras. But she finds a sense of joy in her everyday existence. She is an avid reader, and a fan of an author who is holding a book signing. She decides she must go and get his autograph. We can imagine the scene; a crowded bookstore, a busy author signing books, a long line of ladies who are fans. She arrives at the desk to meet him and is speechless; she is barely able to speak her name as he signs it. She heads home on the train clutching her book to her as a lifeline. Here we learn about her son and daughter who are struggling with their lives and relationships.
The Writer who Loses His Words
It seems that all is not well in the author’s life, with a wife who has an affair and a son who has opted to use his mother’s name to avoid school fights. His creative life he seems to be in ruins. French literary critics review his book as nothing more than stories for the working classes without any literary merit. He is soundly criticized by the papers who deem his work, nothing more than cliche. He is devastated by his life attempts to end it. But don’t worry, he survives (but barely).
The Letter that Changes Everything
Finally, she could not hold it in any more, ODETTE writes him a letter with her whole life story; she tells him that she has depended on his stories and books for a lifeline. Her second job is one thematic element that makes this film more than what it appears. ODETTE sews feathers and jewels onto the costumes for the LIDO and FOLIES BERGERE. The original score and many of JOSEPHINE BAKER songs are introduced as ODETTE dances around in her apartment. This adds a wonderful element of a musical subtext to the film as we are carried along with her fantasies. When the author opens her letter, the major part of the film is revealed. Take note, this is at the heart of this story. I don’t want to tell you the rest, only that if you can get this far, the rewards are many. This film is charming, the characters are very true to their intentions. The everyday aspects of living in the working classes is very true to the story and no detail is spared.
You can stream this film on AMAZON PRIME stars Catherine Frot, Albert Dupontel and produced by CANAL + and directed by Eric-Emanuel Schmidt.