Female Filmmaker Friday: Elle s’en va, 2014 (dir. Emmanuelle Bercot)
I wanted to see this film when it was in theaters earlier this year (I’m calling it a 2014 releases because that’s its U.S. release date; sue me), but somehow I missed it and was really bummed. Then the other day I was looking for something to watch on Netflix and it was in the suggested list! Sometimes Netflix gets it so right! This is Emmanuelle Bercot’s third film (she started out as an actress). I haven’t seen her other films, though I want to because this film had a very distinctive tone and I’m curious to see if her other films feel the same. She wrote this script specifically for Catherine Deneuve and it’s wonderful to see the actress really tear into the material.
The opening sequence mostly hold on Deneuve’s hair (and what lovely hair she has!) as she stares out into the ocean; she’s clearly got a lot on her mind and we’re instantly curious.
We also get this great shot of Bettie (Deneuve) at the edge of the ocean. She is so small and this theme will show up again and again throughout the film.
We also get a quick cut back to young Bettie (aka young Deneuve) when she was Miss Brittany in 1969. One of the main subplots in the film revolves around Bettie not wanting to go to a reunion weekend with all the Miss France finalists from 1969. We find out towards the end of the film why she is so reluctant to go.
French actress Claude Gensac – who has been in films since 1952 – plays Bettie’s mother, whom she now lives with. She’s a terrifically nagging, yet supportive mom.
Bettie finds out that he current lover has left his wife – but not for her! – and her restaurant is not doing well. This combo causes her to hit the road for some air, but while looking for a place to buy cigarettes in the French countryside on a Sunday, she finds herself in a strange little roadhouse having a dart tournament. This sequence of the film may be my favorite, as Bettie meets random single older country ladies (many of whom have tattoos) and a young “sensitive” twenty-something who is bewitched by her beauty.
Bettie gets a little drunk and finds herself the next day in bed with said twenty-something. This whole interaction is just too funny. This film is very frank about sexuality, both when we’re young and when we’re older like Bettie. We find out some very funny (and a little sad) things about Bettie’s marriage (and previous lover) and how her husband died. I won’t spoil those; you gotta here Deneuve tell the stories!
Eventually Bettie winds up transporting her grandson fro her estranged daughter to the house of his grandfather (on his father’s side). If you read summaries about this movie anywhere, they will say this is the main plot of this movie. They are wrong. The roadtrip with her grandson is maybe a third of the film. This movie is about Deneuve’s Bettie as she tries to run away from her past, as she tries to do things on her own and as she comes to term with her failures.
I just really love this shot of Deneuve’s face. May we all look as good as this when we’re 70!
While Bettie never really reconciles with her daughter, they do share an embrace that feels so real, I had to screencap it. There’s tension because her daughter (played by a French actress who goes by the name Camille) resents her mother for various reasons (she gives one hell of a speech towards the end of the film), but she also has her own stresses and there are few things as comforting as a mother’s embrace – even if the two of you are estranged. Seeing all these women work together and work with Bercot’s script, it is so refreshing to see women’s roles written by women – and by an actress for actresses.
I gotta mention Gérard Garouste (the grandson’s grandfather), because his character is a bit of a dick when he’s first introduced but Garouste is so crazy old-man hot that I can’t not mention him. Also, he softens quite a bit as the story progresses, and he and Deneuve have amazing chemistry.
Here’s another shot of 70+ year-old Deneuve to inspire us all.
I just thought this shot was really beautiful. Ah! The French countryside!
When Garouste and Deneuve finally make out, it’s been building up for so long, it is just too hot. I love movies that show older people in moments of passion.
As the film ends, Bettie has learned that “life goes on” and so should she, even if nothing has worked out like she planned. While the film may not be the most polished ever, it’s worth it for this wonderful ride with one of cinema’s greatest talents.
Posted on December 5, 2014, in Female Filmmaker Friday and tagged 2014, Camille, Catherine Deneuve, Claude Gensac, Elle s'en va, Emmanuelle Bercot, Gérard Garouste, On My Wat. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.