Hunting And Gathering / Ensemble, c’est tout
Ensemble, c’est tout (2007)
Director: Claude Berri
Writers: Claude Berri , Anna Gavalda (novel)
Release Date: 16 August 2007 (Germany)
Genre: Drama / Romance
Plot Keywords: Doctor / Elderly Woman / Stuttering / Neighbor / Inheritance
(Cast overview, first billed only)
Audrey Tautou … Camille Fauque
Guillaume Canet … Franck
Laurent Stocker … Philibert Marquet de la Tubelière
Françoise Bertin … Paulette
Alain Sachs … Medecin du travail
Firmine Richard … Mamadou
Béatrice Michel … Carine
Kahena Saighi … Samia
Hélène Surgère … Yvonne
Alain Stern … Chef restaurant
Halima Guizani … Infirmière
Juliette Arnaud … Aurélia
Danièle Lebrun … La mère de Camille
Li-Ting Huang … Serveuse
Madeleine Cofano … La coiffeuse
Also Known As: Hunting and Gathering (Europe: English title)
Runtime: Germany:97 min (European Film Market)
A fabric like of dreams: three slightly excentrical, nonetheless highly gifted late-twens (or early thirties?) bumping into eachother and trying to ease their somewhat melancholical megalopolis life in a anytime-nowhere that looks amazingly like Paris. “Together one is less lonely” – as the German Title suggests. Claude Berri, adapting a novel by Anna Gavalda, throws a struggling young artist who works as an office cleaner at night, a young aristocrat misfit, a cook, and an elderly grandmother into an apparently normal chaos.
I cannot say anything about the dialogs in French, but in German they are often trivial or even pathetic. What worked well, is the big shot of neuroticism placed into the movie, seemingly distilled from the novel. Camille (Audrey Tautou) with Amelie-Eyes in close-up, is looking for happiness in the big city djungle. On top of her cleaning job she is punished with her ever quizzical mother, who does not know better but to criticize her daughter’s eating habits. (Their conversations are longer, but that is roughly the gist of them). Returning from one of those meetings with her mother, Camille meets Philibert (Laurent Stocker). He stutters, and his manners are somewhat bizarr, which the viewer is probably meant to take as a clue for an extraordinary and fantastic event. As such, the two do agree to dine together – yeah, just like that. Later, as the fragile girl is catching a cold, it is only natural that the bizarr guy stumbles into her house by chaste and chivalrous coincidence, and brings her to his more lavish abodes, shared already by his somewhat grumpy roommate Franck (Guillaume Canet). Franck is a chef in a noble restaurant, and has an old granny to look after, because she broke her leg. He feels, who would be amazed, bitter about that empty life of his, or so he tells is tearful grandmother. As in opposition to the other’s he compensates for this melancholy with sex and drugs. (His musical preferences are the only good bits of music in the whole musette-ish soundtrack in bad Yann-Tiersen-style, b.t.w.). Now the scene is set for some clashes and mutual idiosyncrasies, that are, naturally, all overcome by doing good. Hence the idiosyncrasies turn into deep mutual bonds and so the now much happier trefoil orchestrates sick grannie’s move into the appartment, and next back into her own house, where she dies. Catharsis: the aristocrat’s lavish abodes are sold – and stretta: the stuttering aristocrat stops selling postcards and, having become a successful standup comedian, he moves with his new girlfriend. The grumpy cook and the thorny artist do move away from Paris, and take over a bistro. They all live there happily ever after and produce babies in between hearty customer service. The aforementioned grandmother was dead anyway. Love, success as recompensation for life’s lack of justice so far… So much about this.
That this sounds like Franck himself compared to a lovely, charming and nonchalant movie, is certainly one of Berri’s biggest achievements. But more than once the boundaries of charme and nonchalance are overridden by rightaway sirupous kitsch. The characters are condensed into something beyond reality, and hence beyond real sympathy too. Candid dialogues do not make up for shallow stories.
Who likes anytime-nowhere stories with happy end, is sure better off with Chocolat (2000). It has it all, and is just a charming little nothing. Neither Amelie nor Ensemble… seem to have added much to this.