Alain Moreau (Gerard Depardieu) is a world weary, small-time crooner who sings sentimental favourites in a dance hall till the wee small hours. This is a place where singles meet and oldies come to dance in the old fashioned way. When beautiful blonde Marion (Cecile de France), walks in one day with Alain's real estate friend Bruno (Mathieu Amalric), he is instantly attracted to - and interested in - her, despite that fact she is half his age. Her bright disposition at work as a real estate agent conceals her personal problems, and Alain tries to get to know her by asking her to find him a new apartment. She resists at first, then is drawn to him, and then isn't sure anymore... proving that life is more complicated than love songs like Alain sings might suggest.
Review by Louise Keller:
Gerard Depardieu gives an exquisitely soulful performance in The Singer, a deceptively simple, yet affecting film about the poetry of love, the burden of loneliness and the thrill of a May December romance. A man is alone in his dressing room. A glance in the mirror, a quick spray of hair lacquer, the clearing of the throat... then he is ready to croon romantic fantasies on the dance floor. But the dancers' are not the only fantasies addressed. The lyrics of the songs he sings are a reflection of how he feels - this musical philosopher with a backing band and a microphone. Alain Moreau is a 50 something, charismatic, slightly overweight dance-hall singer, who sings the songs everyone wants to hear. Save The Last Dance for Me, If I Only Had Time, Paradise Lost...
It is when he is singing Paradise Lost (Christophe's Les Paradis Perdus) that he and Marion (Cecile de France) connect emotionally. He is on stage and she is dancing when their eyes meet and we know that they are sharing a special moment. Their earlier one-night stand had come soon after he first noticed her on the dance floor, heralding the beginning of a new kind of relationship for them both. Xavier Giannoli's thoughtful script goes far deeper than we expect. This is not a simple love story where boy meets girl. It is an exploration of the complexities of two very different people searching for something intangible, and whose emotional needs are not what we expect. De France is fresh and lovely as the vulnerable Marion, much of whose appeal lies in the fact she is not one of Alain's many admirers who ask for an autograph on the photograph of the suave man with the white jacket, red rose and charismatic smile. There are many surprises - from Alain's pet goat to his relationship with his ex-wife Michele (Christine Citti).
After 40 years impressing us with his body of work, Depardieu continues to impress with both his musical talents and the delicate creation of a complex character who delivers melancholy like a beautiful melody. The life of a singer may be a lonely one, watching couples meet and break up under the spell of his music, but Alain is secure in the musical cocoon of his making. 'People become corny when they last,' Alain says of his career longevity. The same could not be said of Depardieu.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The melancholy implicit in the French title (Quand j'étais chanteur - when I was a singer) is an accurate alert for the film's mood, which is an essay on that often discredited romantic setting of the older man and the younger woman. But writer director Xavier Giannoli takes an unexpected detour and creates a complex, layered set of relationships around the central duo which provides the emotional ground on which the story is told. The problem with this is that these other elements obscure and dilute the relationship - nor are the relationship's natural conclusions ever reached. There is an abrupt seduction, a drawn out courtship that looks more like amateur psychology and a really unsatisfactory, ambiguous ending, as if Giannoli was afraid of letting this edgy relationship flower into a romance.
This feeling echoes throughout the film in various ways; Gerard Depardieu is wonderfully nuanced and credible and honest as Alain, hitting all the right notes as the self aware ageing singer with no big notes on himself, but as Alain, he is too careful to really come on to Marion sexually. What little happens between them is off screen.
Cecile de France is beautiful and a fine actress who balances Marion's painful predicament with her growing affection for Alain's unique personality. Marion's emotional fragility helps the film create a sense of deeper issues, but it is also left in limbo. The existence of Marion's son is clumsily handled and left hanging, and finally so are we.
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SINGER, THE (M)
Quand j'étais chanteur
CAST: Gerard Depardieu, Cecile de France, Mathieu Amalric, Christine Citti, Patrick Pineau, Alain Chanone, Christoph
PRODUCER: Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, Edouard Weil
DIRECTOR: Xavier Giannoli
SCRIPT: Xavier Giannoli
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yorick Le Saux
EDITOR: Martin Giordano
MUSIC: Alexander Desplat
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Francois-Renaud Labarthe
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 5, 2007