Orchestra Seats

Orchestra Seats

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

I was talking to my friend Juliette about Orchestra Seats and before I had time to make a stupid remark about the title, she whooped in that delightful Gallic way and said, “It is so perfectly Paris!”

Of course, she’s right.

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Romantic, sophisticated, light (not empty) and charming, this is the essence of the rom-com. An ensemble piece, centered on an area close to the Eiffel Tower, where theatres and art galleries predominate, it tells three stories, with their subsequent sub-plots. Tripping innocently in and out of them is Jessica (Cecile De France), a girl from Macon, whose personality positively glows, like Dorothy’s on the yellow brick road.

There is only one café, Bar des Theatres, which is frequented by actors, musicians and artists. They have never hired a waitress in their entire history. “It is a tradition,” Jessica is told. Despite this, she is taken on for a trial period and in a very short time gets to know everyone.

There is the concert pianist (Albert Dupontel), who cannot stand the formality and snobbishness of the classical music fraternity. He prefers to play for cancer patients in a hospital, dressed in T-shirt and tracky bottoms. Although he has bookings confirmed throughout the world for the next six years, he wants to chuck it and go and live in the country with his wife (Laura Morante), who recognises a crossroads in their marriage, and play for people who don’t know him. A man of passion and honesty, he displays the symptoms of a mid-life crisis, sans angst.

Catherine Versen (Valerie Lemercier) is a famous soap star, although she doesn’t like to describe herself as such. She is rehearsing a Feydeau farce in the theatre and behaving like a prima donna. She doesn’t notice, or care, how she affects the rest of the company, or the director, who would tear out his hair if he had any. As a television star, she demands respect, although inside is a mess of insecurities. When an American director (Sydney Pollack), looking to cast a film about Jean-Paul Satre and Simone de Beauvoir, turns up at the café, she goes into high drive.

Mr Grumberg (Claude Brasseur) is selling his art collection. His wife is dead. His son (Christopher Thompson) is an academic. As an ex-taxi driver who made a fortune and invested in paintings and sculpture (“Only buy things other people hate”), he says collections are like life; there comes a time to pass on. Now in his sixties, with an attractive girl (Annelise Hesme) on his arm, he is ready to let go.

Talking to my friend Juliette, she said, “Don’t just list the characters and what they do. That’s – how you say? – not in the spirit. What they do and how the girl Jessica makes affect with them, if you understand, has to be given a little air. Can you give air? In your critique?”

“I can try,” I told her.

“Good,” she continued. “It is in the air that this film makes wing. It flies, believe me. All these people are so … I would like to stay talk with them. And you know me well enough. I don’t stay talk. I choose talk.”

What Juliette did not say is that co-writer/director Daniele Thompson has enticed delightful performances from a diverse cast. Being young, Jessica is all hope and heart and, with the help of the Thompsons’ screenplay, De France changes the way you think about Paris. And the theatre.

Reviewed on: 23 Feb 2007
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Life in the theatre has repercussions outside in a style that is perfectly Paris.
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Director: Danièle Thompson

Writer: Christopher Thompson, Danièle Thompson

Starring: Cecile De France, Valerie Lemercier, Albert Dupontel, Laura Morante, Claude Brasseur, Christopher Thompson, Dani, Annelise Hesme, Sydney Pollack

Year: 2006

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: France

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