16 March 2010

Ensemble, c'est tout

With my limited free time, I can't watch all the films that I want. But tonight it's the turn of a French film called Ensemble, c'est tout, starring the likes of Audrey Tautou and Guillaume Canet. It's a romantic tragic-comedy that is easy to digest, with the two main characters starting off with mutual hatred. The setting of Paris is appropriate, as it is the place where people do not care for each other and indifference is the general ambience. Tautou plays Camille, an office cleaner who often works in the night shift. She lives in the damp and freezing attic. Occupying the same building are two men, Franck and Philibert, who share the same flat despite their personality difference: Franck is a surly chef, while Philibert is living the remnants of his aristocratic past.

During the first half of the film, I thought that there would be a romance developed between Philibert and Camille, as he's the one who really cares about her health and takes her downstairs when she's seriously ill. Then, as the narrative progresses, we see a conflict gradually emerging when Franck seems to have a crush on her, too. However, to my disappointment, out of the blue, Philibert is taken out of the equation when the fate has him meet with another girl and fall in love with her instead. This is not quite what I expected as the film should have perhaps dwelt on the realistic complexity of the triangular relationship among the three main characters. Or at least just making Philibert realise his homosexual tendency would not be too bad and far better than bestowing him such an easy exit.

However, if I'm not mistaken, the whole point of the film has something to do with human connections. If Paris is portrayed as a place where people no longer feel connected and end up pretty much alone and miserable, it's high time we re-established connectedness among ourselves once again. Care (with or without understanding) is crucial, exemplified by Camille's act of humanitarian selflessness -- her decision to take care of Franck's dying grandmother.

Not only do urban people need a sense of connectedness, the ability to express oneself is also stressed in the film. The director appears to give a comment that with our life separate and alone, we somehow lose our ability to talk and express ourselves, especially our delicate emotions, preferring to live inside the shell of our lonely yet secure self-defence. The ending of the film criticizes just that and tells us to articulate our suffering and need should we need the help of our friends or someone close by.

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