TWICE UPON A TIME
Alice d'Abanville (Charlotte Rampling), a famous London actress, and Louis Ruinard (Jean Rochefort), a French film director, were the most strikingly glamorous couple of the 70s. But this legendary pair broke up in 1975 and haven't seen each other in thirty years. Alice is now married to wealthy Lord Evelyn Gaylord (Ian Richardson) and has a son, Paul (James Thierree). Alice doesn't really want to see Louis again, but she is asked to present him with a special award in tribute to his career. Louis is captivated by her all over again...but what's left now? And why did Alice leave so abruptly?
Review by Louise Keller:
Charlotte Rampling and Jean Rochefort are two good reasons to see Twice Upon a Time, a scrumptious romantic comedy that tangles with truths, lies and that formidable thing called love. By the time the opening credits have ended, through economical storytelling (and pertinent photos and newspaper headlines), we know all about Alice and Louis' well-publicised 70s love affair that ended badly. The premise - that Alice is to present Louis with a lifetime achievement award, after they haven't seen each other for 30 years - is rife with anticipation. But writer director Antoine de Caunes does not rely on this one premise to take us over the finish line. There are surprises, twists and keenly observed truths about behaviour and relationships. It's funny, poignant and highly entertaining.
There's more to Lady Alice's stately English manor with the original artworks and extravagant rose garden than meets the eye. Beyond the white-gloved reserve of Randall (Simon Kunz) the bi-lingual butler, who pours tea from the best English china, he and his lord and master, Lord Evelyn Gaylord (Ian Richardson) deliver a constant stream of well-known quotes to illustrate the issues at hand. "The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple," Evelyn quotes Oscar Wilde, while Robert Walpole's "Let sleeping dogs lie," has relevance beyond the constantly sleeping, snoring (scene-stealing) bulldog Winston, who has also been known to leave behind a waft of unspeakable odours.
The humour comprises a mix of situation comedy, sharp one liners ('he is emotional anthrax') and a touch of farce as Alice and Louis begin by slinging barbs in a stuffy English tea-room, and end up between the sheets exchanging endearments. The lead up to the inevitable bedroom scene is played up beautifully, and the scene when Louis drops his last Viagra tablet, only to find himself face to face with Winston's drooling jowls is hilarious. Rampling and Rochefort are wonderful together and the entire cast (whose characters are ever-surprising) makes for a slap-up treat! Don't miss it!
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A rather Franglish film, Twice Upon A Time is set in England, but most of the dialogue is in French; the sensibilities of the screenplay likewise embrace both the French and English social cultures. Louis (Jean Rochfort) is 70 but still carries a pillbox of Viagra; Alice (Charlotte Rampling) has acquired more than just language skills from the French. The focus of the story centres on how these two once-famous lovers and still famous showbiz artists reunite - or not - after 30 years apart. Acrimoniously apart, at that.
Although at times the screenplay seems a tad laboured, the seamless performances and lightness of director Antoine de Caunas' touch make it an engaging and satisfying experience. Rampling - still alluring and graceful enough for a nude shot - delights in her role as the betrayed lover of so long ago who has found her own equilibrium. She surprises herself with the buried feelings for Louis that bubble to the surface ...
Rochfort, still full of vitality, makes his Louis seem ageless despite having to play on his possibly ailing heart. The question that de Caunas' concept poses to cinema audiences is how compelling is a story about lost love being pursued by people of retirement age. His answer is a film of quiet charms, plenty of chuckles and acute observation about life and human nature.
The supports are all terrific: Smasher as the bulldog, Winston, gets plenty of screen time, too, albeit much of it snoring and/or farting, while Gaylord's manservant Randall (Simon Kunz) has a slyly comedic presence. Isabelle Nanty is solid as Louis' producer, and James Thierree makes the most of his enigmatic role as the son. Ian Richardson slips easily into his role as Gaylord, and there is a funny cameo with Boy George, whose cabaret is rudely interrupted by Louis. The film also shows off some great real estate, but the best is kept till last, when the central romantic story is lovingly and realistically resolved.
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TWICE UPON A TIME (M)
CAST: Jean Rochefort, Charlotte Rampling, Isabelle Nanty, Ian Richardson, Simon Kunz, James Thierree, Charles Dance, Raymond Bouchard
PRODUCER: Pierre Kubel, Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar
DIRECTOR: Anotine de Caunes
SCRIPT: Antoine de Caunes
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pierre Aim
MUSIC: Steve Nieve
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gary Williamson
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 6, 2007