The French make endearing often extraordinarily charming movies, which they have been presenting at the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival in Australia for over two decades, always keeping me coming back for more. They seem to me to also have an innate understanding of the frailty of the human condition and our inability to connect well with each other on a daily basis, especially those who are lonely.
After emerging back into the light of day my companion and I both understood why it was winner of the Audience Prize and Best Actress for Noémie Lvovsky for the 2015 Festival Du Film De Sarlat at Paris and the biggest hit in 17 years of French festivals of film.
The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival is not only the biggest film festival in Australia, it is the biggest festival outside of France.
The way this story is structured is pure genius really. With a script by acclaimed screenwriter Julien Rappeneau adapted from a popular graphic novel, Rosalie Blum by Camille Jourdy (2009-2011), the film is an impressive directorial movie debut for Rappeneau, one that should long resonate.
Rosalie Blum is a truly terrific tale about a group of adults. Some are shy and lonely while yet others are either disenchanted or angry with life in general or otherwise desperately trying to get by.
The story revolves around a thirty-something country hairdresser Vincent Machot (Kyan Khojandi). He lives alone in a spacious first floor apartment in a small country town in France with his moggy cat.
Daily he looks to the health and wellbeing of his elderly mother Simone (Anémone) who lives upstairs.
Basically she drives him near to distraction. His patience is a virtue.
Most people believe Simone’s well, just a little crazy especially Vincent’s womanising cousin Laurent (Nicolas Bridet), who is always trying to set him up.
Vincent’s girlfriend of sorts now lives and works in Paris. Every time he plans a trip to go there, or invites her to come and visit him, she cancels out at the last minute.
We know that it will eventually come to a head and he will have to make a choice to go forward or to end their relationship.
In the meantime we drift along with him until one day unexpectedly Vincent has a deja-vu encounter that sees him begin to act out of character.
It all starts when he is out and about chasing down a tin of ‘crab’ promised to his mother for dinner on her birthday. He’s intrigued by the owner of the only grocery store he can find open on a Sunday in Montplaisir nearby to the town where he lives.
The owner is a sad faced fifty year-old woman and Vincent is prompted to ask her if they have ever met before. For some reason he seems to know her face and her name; Rosalie Blum… but how, why and where from? It’s a question he ponders both day and night.
She however denies they have ever met and he’s just left feeling very puzzled and can’t let his feelings of angst go. So eager to understand when he sees her shopping in his own village he makes a spur of the moment decision to investigate this woman who seems so oddly familiar.
He decides to follow her all the way to her slightly run down but still with that French air of interesting decay, free standing home with a garden.
Now he knows where she lives he’s just curious to find out more. And so he begins to follow her both day and night.
Subsequently he finds himself enjoying all new experiences including a Japanese film and going to a club where a live singer on stage captures his attention with her easy relaxed crooning style.
This is also where he has a chance encounter with two men trying to pair him up with lovely lonely young woman Aude Cerceau (Alice Isaaz) and this meeting will turn out to be far more memorable than he can possibly imagine.
Meanwhile he’s engaged in what we would generally classify as serious stalking behaviour!
This includes taking a bag of rubbish from Rosalie Blum’s garbage bin to investigate the contents and screwed up unfinished letters to someone named ‘Thomas’.
His clumsy detective work however hasn’t gone unnoticed and Vincent makes Rosalie Blum suspicious of him. While he thinks she hasn’t noticed him following her, she in turn has invited her niece Aude whom she’s worried about, to investigate him.
Aude comes from a well to do family with a father she doesn’t speak to. She has dropped out of her studies, taking odd jobs here and there and sleeping late to just get through her day.
She has a roomie to share the rent, the wonderfully wacky Kolocataire (Philippe Rebbot). He’s an aspiring circus performer who brings home goats, a dog he wants to imitate a lion and a baby alligator and they all make a colourful backdrop to Aude and her stalking duties.
The wondrous game of hide-and-seek with Aude and her best friends Cecile (Sara Giraudeau), Laura (Camille Rutherford) and the delicious Kolocataire that ensues has often both hilarious and entirely unexpected results.
Rosalie Blum is such a truly joyous film and it is impossible not to love every moment, especially how it all all plays out in the end. But no more spoilers here.
All the actors in this give top notch performances, a truly wonderful example of fine ensemble casting.
They all endear themselves in different ways as Julien Rappanneu resolves the storyline cleverly and deliciously to everyone’s satisfaction.
When my companion and I left the theatre it was easy to believe ‘all the world’s a stage’.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
Watch the Trailer