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Film Review: Alice et Martin

Posted on by sam

Alice et Martin

Director: André Téchiné  (1998)

Finally I’m getting my mother fucking French back on!

Sorry (Mum) for beginning with a casual swear, despite now owning a working Ipod I’m consciously trying to cut the potty language down a fucking tad. ……………… Moving on:

With the entirety of French cinema as my oyster, I’ve opted to mark my triumphant return to the world of the people who intended to eat horse meat with Alice et Martin. This is for one reason and one reason only: it’s a film by André Téchiné. Téchiné is a filmmaker I greatly admire and feel should be in the running for a position with a title along the lines of King of EVERYTHING (along with Joaquin Phoenix, Chan Park-wook and Tom). Simplified, I’d say Téchiné is to French film what The Lord and Saviour Ken Loach is to British film and The Clash are to good music; a great artist (and critic) in his own right who continues to be a huge influence on others.

Tell me the man doesn't look like a film making badass....................... and I'll call you a fool

 

For the uninitiated, Téchiné films can be adequately described as very very French; There’s plenty of depressed looking people smoking or drinking wine or both, and a lot of that sex people designate as steamy for some reason (I’ve had tearful but never steamy, how the hell can sex be steamy!?!). They’re films that explore the human condition and normally centre around two characters in an intense (often sexual) relationship. Téchiné focuses heavily on emotional states and how people relate or share their lives with one another. Sounds fun doesn’t it!

Plot summary time!

Alice et Martin is the horribly misnamed story of Martin and Alice. It begins with a ten year old Martin (Jeremy Kreikenmayer as generic a child actor as French film gets) in a bedroom with an alarming amount of fish paraphernalia and his doting mother (Carmen Maura who exists to act well) who thinks it’s acceptable for children to have goldfish themed bed sheets. Martin just so happens to be the bastard love child of wealthy countryside factory owner Victor (Pierre Maguelon who has a Bacon Number of 3) who he’s suddenly sent to live with for no discernible reason. Ten years later we see a grown up Martin (Alexis Loret a model who made his film debut) dramatically slamming a front gate and running away.

Three weeks later Martin gets trapped by a dog in a chicken coop and picked up by the police. Getting trapped in a chicken coop not actually being a crime in France the police have no choice but to release Martin, who uses his new found freedom to put as much distance as possible between himself and chicken coops. Specifically he moves to the French city most likely to devour any animal seen near a coop, Paris, also it’s where one of his older half-brothers, Benjamin (A fantastic and energetic Mathieu Amalric who played that Bond villain that tried to take over the world by stealing water) lives. Mainly thought I think it’s to avoid chicken coops.

Benjamin is a gay actor struggling to pay the rent with his housemate Alice (Juliette Binoche, a fine actress who in purely complimentary terms is to Téchiné films what Tom Cruise is to Scientology). Alice is a classically trained violinist who plays tango music in a band with big ambitions but little real success.

The recurring image of any French film

 

A few cigarettes later Alice agrees to let Martin stay at their flat until he finds his feet, which Martin does, quickly becoming a model and earning more money in a month than Benjamin has in an entire career in the process. Sadly Martin also develops an obsession with Alice, stalking her despite the two living together and generally just behaving strangely. Alice either sees past the strangeness or hates chicken coops too though and eventually the two form a relationship.

Then the past catches up with Martin, a family secret needs dealing with, Alice goes through some personal things and there are some rather nice cameos by Marthe Villalonga (arguably one of the finest actors of her generation) as Martin’s stepmother and Jean-Pierre Lorit (go watch Three Colours Red/Trois Couleurs: Rouge, come back, watch it again then end this poorly constructed paragraph by recognising how brilliant an actor Lorit is) as another of Martin’s half-brothers.

Plot summary ends

There are three, let’s call them blockades cause I like that word, people try to throw up whenever I recommend watching a film like Alice et Martin. I will list them below and then give a short egotistical yet well thought-out response as to why they shouldn’t be blockades at all and by using them you’re simply revealing yourself to be a sad lonely simpleton knob-face.

Before that here’s a funny picture of a Blockade!

Oh………………… never mind

BLOCKADE THE FIRST: It’s subtitled and films are meant to be watched not read

Response: Subtitles aren’t a mysterious art form requiring lessons like riding a bike or not getting divorced, they simply require two generic skills; the ability to read and the ability to look at the screen while you’re watching something. Admittedly those requirements will eliminate some people affiliated with UKIP The BNP but regardless the requirement to read just doesn’t work as a reason to discount a film. No one refuses to watch a Star Wars film because it begins with three paragraphs of scrolling text do they? No they do it because those films are overhyped examples of megalomania…………………..……..Also while I’m at it it’s anti-subtitlers like you that have led to great films like The Ring being badly remade by American studios, we could have had two original films instead we got a great film and a pale impression of a great film. That’s a waste of time, congratulations, thanks to you and your kind humanity has wasted time with mediocrity, I hope you’re proud of yourself………………… please ignore the preceding rant if you can in fact watch subtitled films.

REVENGE OF THE BLOCKADE: It’s a human condition story so there aren’t any explosions or guns or stuff.

Response: Correct but is that really what you want? Of course it is but that’s not reality. Look most of us are pathetic and I mean truly pathetic, we’re just generally shit people who aren’t that good at living a life worth discussing. Human condition films let other people go through that crap for us, thereby giving us all the life experience we need in case Thatcher decides to close down our mine or the British Government intern us indefinitely in a horrible Irish jail. These films mean we can enjoy our days and remain free to take cocaine  skydive better our selves masturbate and watch Two Best Friends on youtube.

A GOOD DAY FOR A BLOCKADE: It’s French and the French are a queer monarchy rejecting folk with live life to the fullest ideals that conflict with my self-loathing British identity.

Response: The French, or Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys have their faults (mainly with their incredibly unfussy diet that views almost all of nature edible if fried in garlic) but they’re also cool, swarve, sophisticated in a way and have made important contributions to all those things The British Public value like television, films, football, sex, nasty politicians, religion, swearing and racism. They’re sort of like the cockneys of Europe: They don’t really give a damn what anyone else thinks of their actions and annoyingly most of the time back up their boasts with genuine success………………..They were crap at fighting Germans though, so at least Britain will always have that.

Having shown your argument is invalid (and I’m a passé meme machine) it’s time for me to put a contradiction down, flip it and reverse it; while I’m ultimately going to recommend Alice et Martin, I have to be straight with you, it’s not Téchiné’s finest hour. It’s a slow experience at times bordering on dragging and you’re expected to realise events have jumped forward days, weeks and even months without any help whatsoever. It’s also perhaps a little tame by Téchiné standards and could, in comparison to his more evocative stuff be described as a ‘little phoned in’ (like this review).

But tame is good, tame is excellent in fact because it’s a slightly tamer experience like this that acts as a Téchiné primer. Basically what I’m saying is there’s a lot to be enjoyed in Alice et Martin; some truly great acting particularly from Mathieu Amalric, a million different dynamic shots and a confident director combining music with a beautiful style of lighting, the reason I’ve chosen to write a review is because it’s a great way to discover just what a Téchiné film is. If Alice et Martin were a Clash album it would be Combat Rock, a perfectly fine introduction for the uninitiated to what the Clash were about, but with content nowhere near as exciting as the (arguably) less accessible greats like Give ‘Em Enough Rope or their self-titled debut The Clash. See The Jukefox and Sir Andrew Hague aren’t the only pretentious arses that can do music!

Don’t get me wrong, Alice et Martin is a fine standalone film, it’s just the reason I recommend it is it’s an introduction to the works of a personal hero, Andre Téchiné. Check it out, then check out of the rest of his work, then thank me by funding Happy Fingers Productions next film project.

So really I’m using the premise of a film review to wax lyrical about a director and only briefly review the film at all, hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, luckily I have the perfect image for a times like this……………….

Yup, that’ll definitely be the most recurring image on this site before the years out

Written By Sam ‘Téchiné’s not a dick like Haneke either’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

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