Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5
Original Title: Milou En Mai
Alternate Title: Milou In May
France/Italy, 1990. Nouvelles Editions de Films, TF1 Films Production, Ellepi Films. Screenplay by Louis Malle, Jean-Claude Carriere. Cinematography by Renato Berta. Produced by Louis Malle. Music by Stephane Grappelli. Production Design by Willy Holt, Philippe Turlure. Costume Design by Catherine Leterrier. Film Editing by Emmanuelle Castro.
The events of May ’68 are tearing up the city of Paris and are beginning to reverberate around the world, though out in the bucolic countryside where Michel Piccoli resides on his estate with his aged mother, it might as well be happening on another planet. When his mother unexpectedly dies, Piccoli’s peace and quiet is a thing of the past as a group of relatives arrive to pay their respects but also to decide what is to be done about their shared inheritance. Piccoli’s uptight daughter (Miou-Miou) arrives a ball of nerves with plenty of judgments to make about the interruptions that the strikes and protests are causing at home, while his idealistic nephew, who was given a ride to the house by a truck driver, shouts about the overdue uprising of the worker but has no intention of giving up his own bourgeois comforts. Piccoli’s worldly brother (Michel Duchaussoy) swans in with his stylish and bohemian girlfriend (a wonderful Harriet Walter) and his embittered cousin (Dominique Blanc, the film’s best performance) arrives with her complaints about the past always somewhere on her mind while keeping an eye on the silverware that she knows others are helping themselves to. Between arguments about politics they wrestle over what to do about the house and its contents, fully missing out on the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature that surrounds them. The reality of the day comes into play when their desire to bury their departed relative is delayed by more strikes, which they take in stride until the owner of the town’s factory shows up with his wife (Valerie Lemercier) and announces that they are in danger of being executed by revolutionaries. Louis Malle’s wry intelligence combines the look of your favourite soft and comforting French cinema with the content of something much more incisive and critical, forcing his characters to take their freely expressed rhetoric and examine it up close, which occurs in the last third when they all spend a night in the caves of the nearby forest. Beautifully filmed, expertly acted and graced with exactly the right flavour of humour, this is one of the master filmmaker’s most delicate and satisfying works.