C’est la vie! is like a very French Fawlty Towersby Peter Calder
The unpredictable ending of C'est la vie! adds a touch of magic to the finely tuned comedy.
The comic intentions of their new film are more honest and straightforward, though the laughs may not come as freely. The movie derives from a tradition of French farce that makes for a fanciful, even slightly rueful, tone, and it doesn’t try to ingratiate itself with the audience.
Despite its silly title (not the original; the French don’t say “c’est la vie” any more than they say “sacré bleu”), it’s a finely tuned comedy, like a Gallic Fawlty Towers with Robert Altman directing.
The story’s Basil Fawlty equivalent is Max (the veteran Jean-Pierre Bacri), an acerbic and perfectionist wedding planner, and the film unspools over 12 hours of an extravagant reception at a 17th-century chateau.
Max has his hands full: his short-fused and profane lieutenant (Eye Haïdara), dim or disappearing waitstaff, a surrealistically egocentric groom and a preening prat of a stand-in DJ (Gilles Lellouche, marvellous). His senior colleague, who is also his mistress, has dumped him. Oh, and it’s his birthday.
As is the way of these things, misfortunes pile up at an improbable rate and catastrophes are averted with equal implausibility (a restaurant kitchen turns out a fine meal for 200 with an hour’s warning and it all fits in a small van), but as the noose of calamity tightens, the pace picks up.
The film cuts back and forth between a dozen component subplots involving characters who are too individual to be clichés: a photographer with a visceral hate for cellphone cameras; one waiter with plainly doomed aspirations to be a magician; another who keeps correcting his colleagues’ grammar.
But best of all, it ends unpredictably, imaginatively, even poetically, in a way that elevates two characters who have seemed peripheral all along. It adds a flourish of magic to a small, but sweet, and very French concoction.
IN CINEMAS NOW
This article was first published in the June 30, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
Ms Ardern pledged the day after the terrorist massacre that "gun laws will change" and would be announced within 10 days of the attack.Read more
There is not one specific mention of the threat posed by white supremacists or right-wing nationalism in 10 years of security agency documents.Read more
As the face of anti-smoking lobby group ASH, Deirdre Kent played a vital role in the smokefree New Zealand movement.Read more
Māori leaders are calling on New Zealanders to reject the notion that 'this is not us' in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks.Read more
The sci-fi sound of the ondes martenot is playing a key part in the upcoming performance of an epic symphony.Read more
A Canterbury gunsmith living and working says he told police less than six months ago they needed to look at the rise of white supremacists with guns.Read more
In the following days after the Christchurch terror attacks, New Zealand has come together to support the victims of the shootings.Read more
The works of the English contemporary composer feature in the NZSO’s forthcoming The Planets series.Read more