(06/12/07) – Going against the grain of much contemporary French cinema and its penchant for fuzzy narratives disguising lack of content Not Here To Be Loved is a breath of fresh air, a contemporary European film that deals with feelings in a realistic, compassionate way and with soothing lightness of touch. Brize’s film may remind some of the wry humour of 1990s American indies such as Walking and Talking(1996), although his film doesn’t lend itself to genre categorization. Like most people’s lives, it’s a hybrid of quiet joy and melancholy.
Patrick Chesnais plays Jean-Claude, a jaded fifty-something who inherited a bailiff business from his curmudgeon father, who he visits every weekend in a home for the elderly, despite the old man’s toxic temperament which has alienated all th rest of his offspring. On yet another boring day at the office, Claude realises there is a tango school across the road and he decides to join the lessons. At the lesson, Francoise, who is about to get married to a teacher on work leave trying to write a book, recognises Claude as the son of her nanny and shows genuine interest in him as person, possibly recognising some points in common between her and him.
At first the cliché radar goes off at the idea of tango as a metaphor for spiritual release and fiery passion, but Brize never makes a big deal of the Argentinian musical style, probable aware of its overwrought connotations. Instead, it is used in an very en passant manner, an occasional punctuation sign. The relationship that develops between the unlikely couple (and Chesnais is brilliant at doing ‘unattractive’) is very original, never turning into what at first you presuppose it will although it does lead to a gratifying, open-ended wrap-up.
As a minimalist piece of film-making, the details play an important role in injecting humour or a sense of philosophical purpose to the film. Jean Claude’s spinster secretary emerges as a source of enlightenment towards the very end of the film while a new male recruit in the office, a plant-loving nerd who hates his new job, is used as kind of personification of Jean Claude’s frustration. You realise Claude has gone through an internal transformation when he’s kind enough to deliver the young man from a dreary life evicting poor people from their flats by dismissing him. Not Here To Be Loved is a very sweet film whose gentle tone is maintained from beginning to end with meticulous care.
The DVD is out now and includes interviews with director and cast. Please follow links provided to buy a copy and support Kamera by doing so.