Dir: Julie Lopes Curval.Fr. 2006. 94mins.
Writer-director Julie Lopes Curvalleapt into the front rank of promising Gallic auteur talent with her debutfeature, Seaside (Bord De Mer), a dramatic ensemble piece setin a once-fashionable seaside resort town, which won the prestigious Camera d'Or at Cannes in 2002. Three years on, she now deliversher second feature, You And Me, a gently ironic romantic comedy about two youngParisian sisters in pursuit of true love.
While it is quietly amusingand neatly observed, You And Me lacks the poetic scope and original tone of herdebut feature. Lopes Curval hasn't really failed thetest of the crucial second film; rather she's sidestepped it with a more facilepicture in a minor key. It remains to be seen if her third film will confirmhere as a serious contender in France's rich auteur market.
While some critics describedSeaside as Chekhovian in spirit, You And Me's culturalbenchmarks are deliberately more down-market. One of the film's heroines makesa living writing "photo-romans," the Gallic spinoff from the kitsch "fotonovelas"(photo-novels) that are so much a staple of Hispanic and Latin American popularculture. The photo-roman have a following as well in France ,where cartoons and comic books are held in high regard by many culturalarbiters.
As such You And Me's commercial potential is best inFrancophone markets and other regions where the photo-roman has a following.That said, the rising profile of Marion Cotillardespecially, who appears in Ridley Scott's AGood Year and as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose, can but help.
Lopes Curval'scentral stylistic idea is to background the misadventures of Ariane (Depardieu) and younger sister, Lena (Cotillard), with storyboards from the ultra-kitschphoto-roman produced by the former - which all too obviously draw inspiration(or lack of it) from the siblings' less than ideal lives.
But Ariane,under the influence of an editor bent on giving the public what it wants, idealisethese kitsch fantasies. The result is absurdly melodramatic twists and happyendings that have nothing to do with real life but which only aggravate thesisters' shared sense of unfulfilled potential.
A former actress, Lopes Curval's fares best with her cast, glowingly led by JulieDepardieu and Marion Cotillard. Depardieu, nicelyemerging from the crushing shadow of her famous father and brother (Gerard andGuillaume) is adorably scatty as clueless Ariane, caught between her dreams of live-in romance with awealthy Muslim businessman (Sisley) and therespectful but plebeian advances of an immigrant Spanish labourer (Peris Mencheta).
In the more subtlety-gradedperformance, Cotillard touches more emotional nervesas a shy cellist who has a live-in boyfriend she does not really love ‑an idealistic high school teacher (Berger) ' but who's own lack ofself-confidence and artistic yearnings dangerously attracts her to aself-assured violin prodigy (Zaccai).
The flip-flop between (pop)art and life gives You AndMe much of its affectionately lampoonish humour;but at the same time it cramps the film in a visual cliche that tends to becomerepetitive and facile.
However Lopes Curval, with the assistance of her technical team, scorepoints in her use of colour and texture that subtly accompany the heroine's growingpains into a more realistic outlook on life.
Julie Lopes Curval
Phillippe Van Herwijnen
Sergio Peris Mencheta