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Garp's Franchise Film reviews

Garp

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'Bed and Board' [1970]

Skip ahead a couple of years. Antoine and Christine are newly-weds, living in a crowded but friendly apartment block in Paris. He works as a florist, dyeing flowers and she gives violin lessons. When a baby enters the picture, Antoine's roving eye manifests itself again and he starts an affair with a Japanese woman.

Truffaut directs this next instalment of Doinel's life with a light touch. It's less obviously amusing than 'Stolen Kisses', but it is whimsical and zips along quite merrily. The courtyard of their apartment block is reminiscent of Hitchcock's 'Rear Window', although we get to know their neighbours directly here. There is the woman openly out to bed Antoine, the mute stranger they talk menacingly about behind his back (until they discover his semi-fame and embrace him) and the exasperated older couple next door. As previously, Antoine meanders from one job to another, forever to be a man-child, it seems. He is petty and brash, unclear about what he wants. More than ever, he reminds me of John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom here, a fascinating but frustrating character study.

There are some interesting long takes and some surreal sequences (does Christine actually transform herself into a geisha?), but otherwise it's a lazy Sunday kind of film. With chemistry as well-matched as Jean-Pierre Leaud and Claude Jade, that's good enough for me.
 

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'Love on the Run' [1979]

The course of Antoine's love, true or otherwise, does not run smooth. We catch up with him on the verge of divorce (an event so inconsequential to him that he had forgotten about the court date). Not one to let the grass grow under his feet, Antoine is already involved with a young girl named Sabine. But not too involved; they do not live together and he refuses to keep any of his clothing at her apartment. A series of events results in Antoine also crossing paths with an old flame and, as expected, he begins to stray once more.

This is an agreeable, albeit a tad lacklustre, ending to the saga of Antoine Doinel. Truffaut utilizes clips of the previous films as flashbacks, but not as many or as extensively as I had feared. They are usually well-placed and brief; we're not talking 'Gamera: Super Monster' here.

Unusually for Antoine, he seems to be able to keep the same job throughout this film - he now works for a printing company - even if he can't keep to the same woman. The coincidences that are involved to shoehorn a number of previously seen characters into the film are a stretch, but it seems that Truffaut is making fun of himself and the convention here anyway. "I thought things like this only happen in novels," one character says, almost winking at the camera.

Acting and chemistry is still superb - Leaud, Dorothee and Marie-France Pisier especially. Claude Jade as Christine is sidelined somewhat here in favour of another character which is a shame, but makes sense in terms of the plot.

This series is one of the most enjoyable I have seen in a long time, and I'm sad it ends here. I would gladly spend more time with these characters, especially the frustratingly self-absorbed yet charming Antoine Doinel.
 

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I think it's only fitting that my next series of films should be Richard Linklater's 'Before Trilogy', with 'Boyhood' as a bonus.
 

Garp

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'Before Sunrise' [1995]

In 2003 I met a woman on the internet. We chatted regularly, mostly online, sometimes over the phone. In 2004, we decided it was time to meet in person - a big step, considering she lived 4,000 miles away. We first met at the airport, and spent a day getting to know each other - having lunch, wandering around a bookstore, etc. We shared a chaste kiss later that night.

Of course, that woman became my wife, and so it's fairly obvious that I was destined to love 'Before Sunrise'. The film follows Jesse and Celine who meet on a train going to Vienna. He has a flight to catch from there back to the US the following morning, and he convinces her to leave the train and spend the day with him. We watch as they get to know each other - having lunch, wandering around a record store, and sharing their first kiss.

This is an interesting film to watch soon after finishing Truffaut's Antoine Doinel films, as there are certain comparisons to be made. There is no plot to speak of, and the dialogue is natural and very probably improvised. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) starts out trying too hard to impress, only opening up and seeming to let Celine (Julie Delpy) see his true self as the morning comes. Their chemistry is extraordinary here. Celine appears more upfront, taking the lead in discussing what possible future two people who have inexplicably collided might have together. The scene where they pretend to be on the phone to their friends, describing what has occurred over the past few hours and their thoughts about each other, is sublime.

Like Truffaut, there are long takes, with Vienna serving as an amazing backdrop to their blossoming relationship. A few quirky characters appear, but this is Hawke's and Delpy's movie and they are stellar. Cynically, you could argue that the film leans heavily on some worn-out tropes for this genre - a funfair, listening to a song together with relevant lyrics, having a fortune told, etc, and even some idealized American notions of what Europe is like (the early morning harpsichord practice is perhaps a tad too much). But I'm sorry. This film touched me too much for me to view it with my somewhat usual jaundiced eye. I was tempted to watch 'Before Sunset' immediately after to see how these two characters grow, but I will hold off until next week. Still, I'm rooting for them.
 

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'Before Sunset' [2004]

Here we meet up with Jesse and Celine nine years later. Jesse has written a best-selling book about the few hours he spent with Celine and is on a book promotion tour in Paris. Celine turns up at the bookstore where he is giving an interview, and the two spend the hours catching up before Jesse has to catch a flight back to the US. We quickly learn that circumstances meant they were not able to meet up six months after their first encounter, as they had arranged, and they have not seen each other since.

For me, this film started off a bit rocky, but found its feet by the end. Obviously these two would never meet again unless there is some major contrivance for them to do so. But even so, making Jesse a successful author was a bit too on the nose, I thought. Similarly, Celine has a cool job too, saving the planet, which really didn't add much to the plot, but still.

The awkwardness of two brief lovers meeting after so long is extremely well acted, mixed with a touch of flirtatiousness. It takes a while to discover whether either are still single, and whether it really makes a difference anyway. There are a range of emotions on display - regret, anger, longing - and Delpy is clearly in charge and the star here. Hawke is no slouch either, and the years have not diminished their chemistry. As before, we watch them wander around a beautiful city and talk, and I could not be happier.

The film ends on a not particularly subtle cliffhanger, but, dammit, I was already caught up in their magic by then. I really don't want this mini-franchise to end.
 

Garp

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'Before Midnight' [2013]

Another nine years have passed, and we find Jesse and Celine on vacation in Greece. Unlike the first two films, more time is spent with secondary characters, but the foundation of the film is still based squarely on Jesse and Celine's relationship.

No one likes to watch Mum and Dad fight, and so this was occasionally an uncomfortable film, but also the most real. Once we get past the lofty dinner conversation with friends, the film finds another level - more down to earth, grounded and naturalistic. Couples do talk like this and do fight like this. Events years in the past are aired again, tangents fly and things are spat out designed solely to hurt.

Whereas the first two films are largely about unimaginable romance, this film is about true love. Love across the ages. In Linklater's world, most of love is just sticking around. It may not have the ethereal glow of 'Before Sunrise' or even 'Before Sunset', but it's true and therefore startling to see on screen.

I'm going to take back what I said in my previous review, and state that I hope Jesse and Celine's saga ends here. There are probably lots to say about love in your 'silver years', and no doubt Linklater and these actors would say it beautifully. But I prefer to leave Jesse and Celine in an outdoor restaurant in Greece, possibly about to have the greatest sex of their lives.
 
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