In Review: Attila Marcel

by Maryann O'Connor on 02/09/2014

attila marcel

Cutely captivating from the first colourful moments, Attila Marcel combines the best of the whimsical and philosophical traits of French cinema. Paul (Guillaume Gouix) is a thirty-something man seemingly devoted to three things; mastery of the grand piano, baked goods and the opinion of his aunts (Bernadette Lafont and Hélène Vincent), with whom he still lives. It is easy to ascertain from the earliest scenes that Paul has a few small emotional issues; he is a man with many questions and no voice with which to ask them.

The draws of this film are manifold. Many scenes are from Paul’s perspective, as you would imagine, but those which are most engaging are those from his perspective as an tootsie-wiggling, gurgling, pram-situated infant. The film is very much like a jigsaw which we are putting together with the reluctant protagonist, discovering the secrets of his life at same time as he does. The enlivenment and screen presence of his memories, as well as Gouix’s expressive face, take the place of his voice as the film’s key element which helps us relate to him and his aunts. These moments, if direly executed, could turn the humour of the film into a tool with which to make fun of it but they only enhance our experience. Writer and director Sylvain Chomet seemingly knew exactly when to end each scene, and on which note; at 106 minutes long, the film is exquisitely timed.

The focus on the power of memory and music, especially in our early lives, and the effect on our psyche into adulthood is cleverly addressed. As is the acknowledgment that our memories are flawed and that snapshots of a scene are not always the whole story.

The characters are as wonderfully colourful, matching the film’s cinematography and score. The aunts are excruciatingly but deliciously shameless in their manipulation of Paul, the supporting cast members of Monsieur Kruzinsky (Jean-Claude Dreyfuss) and the razor-sharp Madame Proust (Anne Le Ny), who live in the same apartment building, become just as important to the story as the would-be concert pianist. As usual, the reduction of flim-flam dialogue, even on the part of one character, sharpens each scene and keeps us enthralled until the triumphant flourish at the end.

Maryann has awarded Attila Marcel four Torches of Truth

four torches

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