CONVERSATIONS WITH MY GARDENER
A middle-aged Parisian artist (Daniel Auteuil) returns to his old family home in provincial France after his parents' death. He advertises for a gardener to maintain the sprawling land and to recreate his mother's vegetable garden, and finds the first applicant (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) is an old school friend he hasn't seen since childhood. An intimate friendship develops between the two as the painter builds up an impressionist's canvas of the gardener whose honest and simple view of the world is uncluttered. As they see everything through each other's eyes, they find a beauty they have never seen before. After all, a gardener grows things for others, just as a painter paints for others to see.
Review by Louise Keller:
An intimate, revealing and moving portrait of two men, the joys of Conversations With My Gardener lie in the exchanges between Daniel Auteuil's painter and Jean-Pierre Darroussin's gardener. It is a pleasure to watch two of the veterans of French Cinema at work in this soulful two-hander in which two very different men from different backgrounds develop a permanent bond. Like the garden that Darroussin's gardener plants and nurtures, their friendship grows quickly.
Utter tranquility is the mood of the opening scene. There's a road that curves just a little and in the valley below, there are a myriad different shades of green. The only sound is the heavenly tweeting of the birds, until we hear the brrhm brrhm of a motor cycle as it winds its way along the curved road until it finds a creeper-covered country cottage from which comes the enticing sound of a jazz piano.
Quickly, the painter discovers his new gardener is in fact an old childhood school friend, and they easily start a conversation. They talk about everything, from the profound to the trivial. 'Always carry a knife and a piece of string, advises Darroussin, 'it can save you.' It's as though we are privy to spending time in the company of these two French actors at the top of their game. Auteuil is sipping coffee from an oversize French coffee cup; Darroussin listens to Mozart in the vegetable garden. Painting outdoors, Auteuil admits to using his imagination rather than painting what he sees; he explains to his friend he likes to be in his company. There's a comfortable intimacy between the two men as they share memories of their childhoods, marriages, children and careers. The important things are those you keep in your heart, the gardener tells the painter.
There's a great sense of place. We luxuriate in the verdant peace of Rhône-Alpes' picturesque Villefranche-sur-Saone, and the eternal city of Paris, through the cobbled streets, the sidewalk cafes and the Arc de Triomphe. When the painter takes the gardener to the Louvre to show him the light and the dark of the classic paintings, we feel as though we are there too. There are many images and fragments of conversation that are memorable, but none more so than that of two men fishing, deliberating on matters of life and death. Philosophical, mischievous and melancholy, this is a beautiful film that draws us to the two characters, their lives and hearts.
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CONVERSATIONS WITH MY GARDENER (M)
Dialogue avec mon jardinier
CAST: Daniel Auteuil, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Fanny Cottençon, Alexia Barlier, Hiam Abbass, Élodie Navarre, Roger Van Hool
PRODUCER: Louis Becker
DIRECTOR: Jean Becker
SCRIPT: Jean Becker (novel by Henri Cueco)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jean Marie Dreujou AFC
EDITOR: Jacques Witta
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Thérèse Ripaud
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 8, 2007