Sunday, 23 August 2009

Beautiful Memories (2001)

I recently wrote about the World Movies satellite channel and I am still finding rewarding films in their schedules. This is harder than it might appear since their forward listings seem to feature the same dozen or so flicks in haphazard order and their actual showings are seldom known with any lead time. But I keep my beady eye on them!

The French title for this film is "Se souvenir des belles choses", literally meaning to remember beautiful things, and this is the problem facing lead actress Isabelle Carre, whom I also wrote about earlier this year with the launch of CineMoi. In this film she plays a seemingly healthy 32-year old, but is actually in the throes of early-onset dementia from which her mother died. Her bossy sister takes her to a clinic dealing with memory problems in general and Carre soon chooses to take up residency there. The clinic caters to an appealing collection of odd-balls, and the staff which includes the director Zabou Breitman also seem to march to a slightly different piper. One of the "inmates" is a wine-taster, played by Bernard Campan (a vaguely familiar-looking actor whom I can't quite place -- or perhaps he just seems typically French). After losing his wife and young child in an auto accident in which he was badly injured, he has repressed all memories of his earlier life and these are only beginning to resurface. After some initial friction, he and Carre connect and a deep attraction and love between them develops.

The clinic's director knows that he must choose between doing what he can for Carre in a professional way for the small time she has left as a rational being or to let her find happiness with Campan in the time remaining. He opts for the latter course and arranges for the lovers to move into a flat he owns. There Carre has the security to try to cope with everyday life, although she is dependent on a series of memos, timetables, and alarm clocks to jog her failing memory and to find strength through her "nicely" man (another symptom of her growing problem is her inability to remember the right words for things). The irony of the story is that as Campan's past seeps back into his consciousness through a series of nightmares, Carre's future looks less and less rosy as she begins to forget more and more.

The film is wonderfully put together and acted, but despite moments of pleasure, one just knows that things will not end well and sadness looms. Like so many French films the action just stops and the viewer is left to make his own mind up as to what will happen next. My blog-buddy from the AOL days Tommy/James says that this is what he likes about European films. Me? I like a feeling of closure.
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