Sunday, March 30, 2014

Le Weekend (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Le Week-End

"Le Week-End" is the long awaited film by Roger Michell (Venus) and it also produces another well done collaboration with Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Launderette).

This twisty tale of sweet lemon and bitters stars Jim Broadbent as a deflated professor and the underrated Lindsay Duncan as his restless wife who is also a teacher. Nick (Broadbent) has the idea to breathe life into his enervated marriage by taking Meg (Duncan) to Paris for the weekend.

Needless to say, they are snarling within seconds.

Nick loses his passports (or thinks he does) and Meg is at his throat. When they get to a so called quaint inn, the room is cramped and institution-beige with little ventilation. This doesn't help matters. Meg takes off and Nick is left holding the bag, trying to placate the concierge. He manages to track Meg down who tries to book a five star suite. There are no rooms.

With a bit of patience, the two warriors secure a suite, a supposed favorite of Tony Blair.

In the midst of offering an olive branch and a white flag, Nick and Meg get into it again, revisiting old hurts and passive-aggressive jabs in the mode of an Albee play. During one scene, Meg angrily knocks Nick in the chest and he falls on his knee, hitting the cobblestones. As if a  switch is pulled, Meg is transformed into the caring spouse and then an hour later at a bistro, they are at it again. Nick becomes a perspiring flowerpot under Meg's biting attacks.

It is not that Nick and Meg do not love one another, they clearly do. However this is one case where love may have run its course and neither person is strong enough to leave the other.

The emotional suspense is in watching just how far they will go.

Along the way, they get tipsy and make up a bit, meeting an old colleague along the way: the pandering, snaky, yet also disinterested and elaborately insincere Morgan (well played by the ultimate actor of Odd, Jeff Goldblum).

Morgan invites them to a party, a soirée that is in actuality an event to stroke his ego. Every person at the party resembles Morgan in pomposity. Morgan pays a self conscious tribute to Nick at the dinner party, unaware that Meg had (just hours before) given Nick the ax.

The spark of this film is that it manages to keep you guessing, having a great looseness in its narration, combined with some fine detail. Jim Broadbent is excellent as he unwinds to near catatonia, in singing Bob Dylan on his iPod, and Lindsay Duncan gives a rich and highly charged role as a vexed, frustrated and restless  woman.

This is not "The Out-of-Towners" or a "Midnight in Paris", nor should it be. This is a stay shared with two people in an unfamiliar land who know each other too well.

Although the cinematography that  puts Paris in lights is first rate, the emphasis is on the hapless rancor of a couple with all their bumps and bruises rather than stunning locations. There is some telling symbolism too, as the interiors are often shaded with browns and grays. Cafés and rooms are either cluttered or desolate while hotel rooms are rife with a distemper of anxiety. Far from creating a wild melodrama, every frame is authentic and deliberately intentioned with meaning.

"Le Week-End" is a thoughtful sojourn that highlights a couple in portraiture: one man and one woman who yearn desperately to find the jasmine threads of Bohemianism that may or may not be lost. Each mate is spent to near exhaustion by the other, but their shared fatigue and  familiarity--- newly fused in a single nostalgic dance--- make a comforting elixir.

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