La Ville Est Tranquille
Misery. Amid her desperation Michele (Ascaride) never gives up hope...
The Town Is Quiet

dir Robert Guediguian scr Robert Guediguian, Jean-Louis Milesi
with Ariane Ascaride, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Gerard Meylan, Alexandre Ogou, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Pierre Banderet, Christine Brucher Jacques Pieiller, Jacques Boudet, Pascale Roberts, Veronique Balme, Philippe Leroy-Beaulieu
release UK 19.Oct.01
Canal+ 00/France 2h13

4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Think of it as an earthy, working-class, French Magnolia. This is another of those tapestry films, weaving together various story threads into an overall picture of society in crisis. It's a gripping, emotional journey through the lives of these increasingly desperate people living in Marseilles. At the centre is Michele (Ascaride), single-handedly juggling her deadbeat husband (Bandaret), junkie daughter (Parmentier), infant granddaughter and an awful job as a fish packer. She's at the end of her rope ... and things are getting worse. She turns to old friend Gerard (Meylan) to get drugs to supply her daughter's addiction; then she turns to struggling taxi driver Paul (Darrousian) for help in paying for the drugs. But Gerard and Paul have their own crises. As does a local music teacher (Brucher) whose marriage is collapsing as she encounters an old student (Ogou), just out of prison and wanting to break the cycle of crime among his buddies.

The themes are deadly serious; social, political, racial and economic barriers divide these characters, with sometimes fatal consequences. The tension and misery--both subtle and catastrophic--increases as each storyline progresses, leading to an almost unbearable desperation. Yet the film is so well-made and impeccably performed that it carries us along effortlessly. We're never bored for a second--it's vibrant and alive, alternately touching and terrifying. Guediguian assembles his usual cast of actors, and as usual Ascaride shines with a startlingly transparent performance that's constantly involving. Darrousin and Meylan are also superb, although Gerard's plot thread is less defined than the others and leaves us full of questions about what went on and why. The ending is shattering, drawing together the themes in a remarkable way. The hopelessness is palpable, and yet there's a glimmer of human spirit in the characters that makes it more than worthwhile. In the face of political and economic defeat, people still have a reason to live.
adult themes and situations, language, nudity, violence cert 18tbc 18.Jul.01

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"This excellent film stamps Guediguian as a serious director. His previous films have often been classed as 'small films' both because of their apparent local concerns and his habit of using the same players. This film demonstrates that his vision is growing and that he is beginning to explore universal themes of suffering and redemption, touched on previously, that are enhanced and strangely emphasised by the familiar cast. In this respect it is similar to films like Breaking the Waves, The War Zone and My Name is Joe. Like Ken Loach his canvass is the mass of humanity swept by in the race for globalisation. Unlike Loach he does not over-romantacise those same people and therefore manages to give them a reality as something other than human soap boxes that Loach is unable to." --John, London 1.Nov.01
2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall