ME AND MY SISTER
Louise (Catherine Frot) is a small town beautician who comes to Paris to stay with her older sister Martine (Isabelle Huppert) for three days. Louise is excited about her visit, and can't believe she will actually be meeting the publishers who have agreed to publish her first novel, which is based on her life. Martine is annoyed that her gauche, unsophisticated sister is intruding into her routine at her smart, tidy apartment. But while Louise exudes vitality and zest for life, Martine has lost the ability to have fun, and lives a sterile life of routine with her husband Pierre (Francois Berléand). She can't wait for Louise to leave: she finds her eternal optimism and natural zest for life irksome and embarrassing. But Louise finds her feet very quickly, and as jealousy rears its ugly head, it's Martine who feels like the outsider.
Review by Louise Keller:
Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Frot are wonderful together playing opposites in the sparkling French comedic drama Me and My Sister. The French title Les soeur fâchée - the angry sisters - immediately alerts us to the conflict between them. Writer/director Alexandra Leclère's debut film is a highly observant story about sisters who live in different worlds and are different people. It's highly engaging, often moving and warmly funny; we understand them and connect with both of them. Huppert plays Martine, the immaculately dressed older sister who seemingly has everything - elegance, style, family and a comfortable life in Paris. Frot's Louise is the dishevelled clumsy one who chatters unselfconsciously and pours out her heart at every opportunity.
Even before we see Isabelle Huppert's distinctive freckled face in tight close up, we hear the practised sound of her gargling. It is indicative of Martine's ordered life, a bored and cold Parisienne who is more interested when something is over, than participating and enjoying the moment; like watching the opera or making love to her husband. We hear her poor wretch of a husband Pierre (Francois Berléand) chomping mechanically on his food. Even their young son Alexandre (Antoine Beaufils) is conditioned to be uncharacteristically neat, and should be seen and never heard.
When Martine's younger sister Louise (Catherine Frot) arrives on the train from her Le Mans home, it's as though a breath of fresh air has suddenly swept through the pristine, tidy apartment. She is scatterbrained, a little gauche and disarmingly honest. Her eyes light up with enjoyment at the simplest things - a scalding hot chocolate that leaves a brown curl of a mark on the edge of her lips, or an uplifting glass of champagne before the opera. She has a naivety that is not only refreshing, but positively appealing. Martine, on the other hand doesn't drink, doesn't like sex or anything else, in fact.
Leclère draws us into the worlds of both sisters, and it takes no time at all for us to understand the emptiness in Martine's life. Louise exudes spontaneity and joie de vivre. There is no greater contrast than when we watch the faces of both women in close up at the opera. Louise is emotional and totally carried away by the moment, while Martine is bored, disinterested and restless. Louise embarrasses Martine and Martine has no compunction to tell her. Whether it is in the hair salon, the dress shop or with her best friend Sophie (Brigitte Catillon), Louise gets on Martine's goat. She just can't stand her good nature, her compassion, her empathy - with everyone, including her husband. The only moment they actually connect is when they watch an old television program from their past, and the shared memory draws them together for just an instant.
There are many lovely moments in Me and My Sister. The film is filled with charm and truth. There are no frills added, and the barren relationship Martine shares with Pierre is perhaps the most poignant. When they have sex, a totally one-sided affair in which Martine is a wooden doll, Pierre whispers 'I love you'; Martine responds 'You make me sick.' Tensions escalate and things come to a head, when it is obvious to everyone, including Martine herself, that she is blatantly jealous of her sister.
Leclere's film rejoices in its themes of sibling rivalry, denial of roots and snobbish one-upmanship. The roles of the two sisters were especially written for Huppert and Frot and it's worth seeing the film just for their wonderful performances. It's a real treat.
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ISABELLE HUPPERT INTERVIEW
ME AND MY SISTER (M15+)
Les soeurs fâchée
CAST: Isabelle Huppert, Catherine Frot, Francois Berleand, Brigitte Catillon, Michel Vuillermoz, Christiane Millet
PRODUCER: Philippe Godeau
DIRECTOR: Alexandra Leclere
SCRIPT: Alexandra Leclere
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michel Amathieu
EDITOR: Jacqueline Mariani, Herve de Luze
MUSIC: Philippe Sarde
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Carlos Conti
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Polyphony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 4, 2005