I don’t enjoy movies, or people for that matter, making fun of others’ pain. On the surface “A Movie with Catherine Deneuve“* is not one of films, but if you are like me you get uncomfortable watching this comedy. For causal viewers it follows an unconventional roadtrip of two friends: men in their fifties who are the opposite of each other. Halperin is shy, hesitant, afraid of decisions and a stereotype of neurosis. Mano, on the other hand seems worldly, loud, outgoing. During the course of their adventures (read the synopsis) though the role of being reluctant goes back and forth between the two of them. As they go through phases of chasing various elusive women they keep switching leadership roles.
Where does the pain seep in? When you realize that it is not just Halperin whose introvert life and self-esteem is broken, but Mano is less of a success than he seems. They are both victims of modern society’s alienation. One seeks refuge in isolation, but the other, with all his charismatic persona, is as much a victim, that hides his loneliness in plain sight. Nowhere comes this clearer than in this exchange at the end of the movie:
‘See Halperin, we’re in paradise. You can stop suffering,’ Said Mano to Halperin.
‘And what fun is that?’ replied Halperin.
Suffering is the basis of his existence and cannot imagine or even enjoy life without it. That is hard to comprehend in a comic mindset. If you need a kind of redemptive ending don’t get too disappointed as this movie provides only a mixed bag of that.
- It is a very light movie with plenty of easy visual and verbal jokes, and it even verges on slapstick, e.g. the scene when the auntie get stolen from the hospital with the help of a stolen van of a conned clown. However it is also a deep movie, suggesting that the journey counts more than the destination. It also points out that the forces you think are driving you are not always the real ones. For those you have to look back to your past journey and actions and deduce from them what took you where you are.
A major theme in the movie is sex, sexual frustration and its opposite: tantric sex. The representative of the latter is shown as en enlightened guru, who brings light to others’ life and even has a brighter aura though a editing. He not just helps women to reach orgasm, but like the god Pan, can use his panpipe to create magical music. This touch and him being a goat-herder makes one wonder what other aspects of Pan this guru embodies,
An integral part of narrative is a recurring puppet show with two characters, who are comparable to Mano and Halperin. This, the puppet characters’ conversations that do not seem to relate directly to the actions of the movie, adds another layer of complexity to this “simple” movie. I leave it to you to decipher what fragment of the identities are projected into them.
The acting and directing wasn’t top notch, but the story, particularly if you take the time to ponder upon the undertones, can hold your attention enough to enjoy Omri Yavin’s movie.
* As a member of the committee helping to put on the Jewish Film Festival, organized by the Jewish Community Center, Sonoma County, I preview movies to help decide which ones to play at the Festival. I watched this movie as part of this volunteer effort.