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aka - Dans La Cour
France 2014
Directed by
Pierre Salvadori
97 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

In The Courtyard

Pierre Salvadori has a wryly bemused affection for la comédie humaine. His previous film, Beautiful Lies (2010) was a romantic comedy of errors about a middle-aged woman who believes that she is loved when the real object of desire is her daughter, Après Vous (2003), a farce about the pitfalls of altruism as a waiter saves a would-be suicide. Dans La Cour is in the same vein but in a much more subdued register, an approach which is eminently suited to a comedy about depression, isolation and neurotic fixations.  

Antoine (Gustave Kervern) is a middle-aged rock singer suffering from chronic insomnia and depression. He walks offstage and into a job as a caretaker at an old Parisian apartment building managed by retiree Mathilde (Catherine Deneuve) and her  husband, Serge (Féodor Atkine).  To the despair of the latter Mathilde is becoming obsessed with growing cracks in the wall of their apartment and is convinced that the entier area is subsiding.  As she spirals into breakdown territory she forms a bond with the phlegmatic Antoine who himself needs a steady supply of beer and drugs supplied by a former soccer star resident (Pio Marmaï) whose career abruptly ended with a training injury and who tries to make a living stealing bicycles.

Much like the films of Aki Kaurismaki and Jim Jarmusch, what make Dans La Cour so appealing is the melancholy mood which hangs over the lost and impotent characters trapped in set of circumstances they are unable or unwilling to change. Antoine wants to lose himself in anonymity but is harried by a homeless Russian émigré (Oleg Kupchik) who belongs to a New Age cult; Mathilde can’t stop her fears assuming catastrophic proportions and Serge looks on in horror as his wife appears to be going mad.

The art of this stripe of film is in keeping the low key tone without becoming monotonous and Salvadori does this with flair, occasionally peppering proceedings with breakout moments such a delightful scene in which Antoine accompanies Mathilde to her childhood home and she starts abusing the owner for having cut down a much loved tree. It's a small moment but one that beautifully captures Mathilde's sense of abandonment.  Deneuve and Kervern are wonderful in the leads achieving just the right measure of dysfunctionality and understated simpatico with each other whilst the support performances are of a comparable calibre.

Dans La Cour is a film that will be dismissed by many but if you like your humour on the gloomy side it should be a hoot.

Available from: Transmission Films




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