The extended "family" assembles in a Paris train station to travel to the funeral of Jean-Baptiste, a controversial painter-patriarch. And it's an amazing assortment of people--estranged relatives, old friends and students, former lovers and their spouses. At the centre are Jean-Baptiste's protege (Greggory), whose lover (Todeschini) has fallen for a young man (Jacques) with several secrets. Nephew Jean-Marie (Berling) hasn't seen his wife Claire (Bruni-Tedeschi) in months, but no one knows this. And eventually they arrive in Limoges for the funeral and a night in the family manse, where Jean-Baptiste's brother (Trintignant) watches as the family threads unravel ... and intertwine.
There's lots more, of course, since Jean-Baptiste's life was extremely colourful, to put it mildly. And the film captures all of these disparate characters beautifully, unveiling their history and secrets cleverly and allowing us to watch each grieve in a very different way ... and for different reasons. Like a sprawling, meaty, French Big Chill, the film is at times a chaotic jumble, with so much going on you can hardly keep track of it all. But the result is exhilarating, mesmerising and ultimately satisfying in the way it deconstructs and ultimately affirms the things that hold people together.
[15--adult themes and situations] 7.Mar.00
UK release 18.Aug.00
Winner of three 1999 Césars: best director, best cinematography and best supporting actress Dominique Blanc.
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