Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
Belgium/France/Switzerland, 1986. La Cecilia, Paradise Films, Limbo Film AG, Ministere de la Culture, Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Screenplay by Pascal Bonitzer, Henry Bean, Chantal Akerman, Jean Gruault, Leora Barish. Cinematography by Gilberto Azevedo. Produced by Martine Marignac. Music by Marc Hérouet. Production Design by Serge Marzolff. Costume Design by Pierre Albert. Film Editing by Francine Sandberg.
The idea of Chantal Akerman directing a musical set in a shopping mall sounds like she has abandoned the concepts of her daring, experimental work of the past, but this charmer has plenty of the hallmarks of her meditative style.
The self-consciously artificial set is comprised of a high-end clothing store, a bright and busy hair salon that sits opposite it, and the café bar in the corridor between them, with employees and shoppers buzzing around in their expressively colourful eighties fashions looking for romance. Two of the girls working in the salon, Mado (pop singer Lio) and Pascale (Pascale Salkin) are in love with Robert (Nicolas Tronc), whose parents own the clothing store, but he is having an affair with their manager Lili (Fanny Cottençon), who is the mistress of a married, shady businessman.
Robert’s mother (Delphine Seyrig) is flustered when a boyfriend from her days during the war shows up to rekindle their lost romance and they reminisce about surviving life in a concentration camp (because only Akerman can get away with the putting the Holocaust into a musical without trivializing the subject).
The delightful songs, in which New Wave beats are set to Akerman’s improvisational-feeling lyrics, are reminiscent of Jacques Demy but don’t feature his sense of life’s unavoidable sorrows; attempts at happily ever after just result in another banal day, and the prospect of going on to the next easily survivable disappointment to follow is the ultimate takeaway from the experience.
Toronto International Film Festival: 1986