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The 40th Chicago International Film Festival is on!   Disgracefully, I’ve only attended one screening so far, a French film called ‘Nelly’.   The director, Laure Duthilleul, was in attendance, which was a treat.   She’s also an actress although she doesn’t appear in this, her directorial debut.

Sophie Marceau plays Nelly, a woman living in a small village who comes home from a trip to the beach with the kids to find that her husband, the village doctor, has died of “natural causes”.   When the buriers arrive, she turns them away in a huff, thereby allowing the family and villagers to spend some time with the body before they put it underground, with ensuing developments that are alternately wacky and poignant.   In the Q&A after the film, Duthilleul pointed out (in extremely halting English, with help from bilingual folks in the audience, so I’m not sure I entirely got it) that we in the West don’t have rituals that involve spending time with the deceased’s body, so she wanted to do a film about interacting with the body.  

The film didn’t completely work for me in that Nelly’s behavior is often too unrecognizable to generate much empathy.   You wind up thinking she’s a bit of a nutter.   The film wants us to laugh and cry, however you’re not entirely sure which response is appropriate (actually, this is similar to my reaction to the fact that W. might win re-election.   Although in that case you’ve really got to end up crying).

However, I liked Duthilleul’s use of the moving camera (there’s a dog’s point-of-view shot as well as a soaring overhead view of the village after a bird takes flight).   I also liked the glimpse the film affords of life in a French village in the forest.   The cinematography captures the lovely fall colors of the kids’ world in the woods, to which they retreat when things get a bit heavy at the house, to play near the brook and in their secret tunnels.   It struck me as a wonderful place for kids to grow up.

- Oct 15, 2004


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  • Response
    Kudos for the great piece of writing. I am glad I have taken the time to read this.
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    Response: NcaPfBkj
    The Moving World - Old Reviews - Nelly

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