The Singer

The Singer

****

Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Back in the mists of time, unable to blag my way into PG-rated films unaccompanied, I found default amusement in Goscinny & Uderzo's Asterix The Gaul cartoons. Happy times, indeedus. Now Gerard Depardieu is so good as The Singer that I can almost forgive his besmirching those childhood memories with the travesties of the Asterix and Obellix movies..

His turn as a low-key dance hall and wedding reception crooner is an understated, believably layered and textured performance. It's a healthy reminder of the unequivocal natural force that Depardieu can summon when he's in focus and on target. It isn't for nothing that praise such as 'a real return to form' has been bandied around since the film was nominated for the Golden Palm at last year's Cannes festival.

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Alain (Depardieu) is a seasoned hand at the old cheeky-wink, open-collared club singing, and regular gigging with his band has made him a minor local celebrity. With the attention over the years he's now also a graceful lothario with the younger women, which has taken its toll on his relationship with his manager and now ex-wife, Michele (Christine Citti). They're more than amicable and there's plenty of affection between them, but that doesn't stop her forging a more committed relationship with family friend Daniel (Patrick Pineau).

Into this steady, mutually beneficial menage a trois comes Marion (Cecile de France). A cropped blond and double-take attractive, she's soon spotted by Alain across the smoky dance floor and his usual patter leads to a tryst that night, leaving him with a mounting infatuation and her with increasing regret. Still, he doggedly pursues her, and through a series of episodic meetings, and moments both stolen and forced, an understanding and affection develops between them. It's the quiet, stilted conversations between Depardieu and de France that really expose the humanity of their characters. The fondness they share becomes tangibly warm and realistically troubled. It makes for a quintessentially French drama that enthralls you through to the denouement.

The Singer also serves as a wonderfully downbeat homage to the power of pop, to the depth of a ditty and the command of the croon. Alain is firmly in Serge Gainsbourg and Michel Delpech territory and while the songs may at first sound cheesy, they're treated with intelligent respect and a maturity that adds to the emotional grind and pathos of the small cast. Depardieu tops his performance by impressively singing all his songs himself. De France's fractured belle tries hard not to be eclipsed by him away from the microphone and they are both helped by Giannoli's simply stylised yet unobtrusive direction. Some things are a little strained (Cecile frequently wears red amongst crowds of muted colours, for example) but the movement and framing are precise throughout and perfectly moulded to the story.

A small but rewarding film that dares to find depth in the seemingly superficial.

Reviewed on: 02 Oct 2007
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A nightclub singer falls in love with a much younger woman.
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Read more The Singer reviews:

Stuart Crawford ***1/2

Director: Xavier Giannoli

Writer: Xavier Giannoli

Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Cécile De France, Mathieu Amalric, Christine Citti, Patrick Pineau, Alain Chanone, Christophe

Year: 2006

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: France

Festivals:

CFF 2007
London 2006

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