Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bittersweet

There is a mood that certain French movies do so well. Daddy Nostalgie (1990) is a beautiful film with an exquisite ending. 


Dirk Bogarde plays father to Jane Birkin's emotionally conflicted daughter. 'Daddy' is recovering from heart surgery. Caroline (Birkin) has arrived to help with the recovery but soon realises that he is dying. The film is directed by Bertrand Tavernier and written by his former wife, Colo Tavernier O'Hagan. So very much a family affair, since Birkin plays a scriptwriter in a performance that seems effortlessly natural. God, it's a millions miles from Slogan, in which she seems acutely conscious of the camera. I guess she got better. But the role of an English artist living in France could almost have been written for her. Bogarde came out of retirement to make this, his last film.

Father and daughter have not been close. At one point she mimics her father, saying, "I had no memories of you before the age of 20'. Ouch. The father has been, is, an alcoholic; a gentleman of the old school. Little girls should be seen and not heard, while the grown-ups get on with the serious business emptying bottles. The important thing in life for him is himself and the need to have a good time. Quietly, mind. There is a drole moment where he confesses to a barman his fears of not being able to make the journey from the carpark to the bar. 

The film offers plenty of poignant moments too. It's a movie that speaks to anyone who has ever felt themselves cut out by their parent(s). But this is not a story of bitterness and recrimination. Somehow the film navigates its way into the hearts of Caroline and Daddy, and even the anxious, frightened wife. As someone whose relationship with his father was, to put it kindly, not close, I like this film for its compassion, kindness and honesty.

Daddy Nostalgie is a film I first saw 20 years ago. I bought this copy from Amazon.uk since it was on no shelf in Melbourne, rent or buy. It comes with a fascinating conversation between Birkin and Colo Tavernier, where they discuss, among other things, the overlapping identities of actors and their real and imagined families.

1 comment:

A Super Dilettante said...

This is one of my favourite films with Birkin and Bogarde (one of Bogarde's last fims).