Le Coeur Des Hommes

Le Coeur Des Hommes


Reviewed by: Monica Wolfe Murray

Manu's mother says, "La Traviata? It's the opera from Pretty Woman - when he takes her off in his jet." She and Dad used to give each other small operatic doses daily, before dinner. "We loved them all".

That's exactly what Le Coeur Des Hommes is. A compilation of arias, an inventory of life.

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The title tells more about the film's ambition than its sad, stunted English translation, French Men, which suggests that it wants to capture no less than the elusive stuff of which a man's spirit is made, an impressive span of emotions, revealed through glimpses of life.

To be specific, it concerns the lives of four friends, typical middle-aged Parisians, over a few short months.

We have Manu (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), the sausage maker and deli owner, the reliable laidback type with an eye for the lonely attractive customer. We have Alex (Marc Lavoine), the journalist whose long string of affairs is the equivalent of a daily espresso - regular, producing a brief buzz, silently acquiesced by friends, constantly suspected by cardiologist (read wife). Then there's Antoine (Bernard Campan), the balding gym teacher who buys his wife her favourite jam only minutes before banishing her from his life. And finally, there's Jeff (Gerard Darmon), the older guy, the media boss, a smooth streetwise creature with a young adoring girlfriend and an answer to every question.

These four have known each other for 25 years, used to play football for the same team, gamble weekly together, enact all those deep seated urban rituals - the bistro, the premiership match, the fruit bowl discussion of politics, sport and love.

It is astonishing how, between them, they manage such a vast collection of plot and emotion. You name it, it's here. The cheating husband, the cheating wife. The suspecting spouse, the hurt partner. One wedding (tick), one funeral (nod, tick). The commitment issue, the age gap issue. Separation and reunion. Ambition, money. Loyalty, betrayal. Falling in love too quickly. Reluctance to recognise love. Secrets. Moving in, moving out. The secret abortion, the serene pregnancy. Rage and forgiveness. Children, the nerds and the rebels. Friendship.

The truth is, it is strangely satisfying, almost soporific, to have it all here, the entire repertoir of the heart. The problem is, to fit it all in under two hours, director Pascal Caubere has to dilute the script to homeopathic formulas. The old issue of quantity versus quality. Nothing is strong enough to hurt, heavy enough to lift, close enough to feel. Although each of us will identify with one or more situations from this collection, it will be a nod of recognition, rather than a grab at the heart strings. Generally, one fails to find epiphany in a shopping list.

The dialogue sends you straight back to Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Occasionally it brings a smile to your face.

"If you lie, you're a shit."

"But I'm not a shit, and you know that, so I'm not lying".

Conclusion? The essence of man? Manu, one of the heroes, declares mid-film to a frowning, puzzled lover/audience, "Man is dark." Possibly. Or, maybe, it is us who remain in the dark.

Reviewed on: 26 Oct 2003
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Four male friends share, listen and support each other through emotional crises.

Director: Marc Esposito

Writer: Marc Esposito

Starring: Gerard Darmon, Jean-Pierre Darrroussin, Bernard Campan, Marc Lavoine, Ludmila Mikael, Fabienne Babe, Zoe Felix, Florence Thomassin, Catherine Wilkening, Jules Stern

Year: 2003

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France


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