My favorite season is autumn because I love seeing cloudy skies and falling leaves. For Emilie and Antoine in the French film Ma Saison Préférée (My Favorite Season) it’s summer.
The story tells of a woman, Emilie, played by Catherine Deneuve, whose aging and ill mother comes to live with her. The mother is unhappy and would prefer to live with her son, Antoine, a psychiatrist in Toulouse played brilliantly by Daniel Auteuil. The brother and sister then decide put their mother in a retirement home. Deneuve leaves her husband and family and goes to live with her brother for a while.
There is a tinge of incestuous relationship occurring between the two, especially on Antoine’s side. Relationships are the focus of the film. It is a mature drama that lacks the usual melodrama used to emphasize a point in most Hollywood and Pinoy films. The subdued acting is the film’s highest point.
There are some steamy portions which do not add up the film’s general character. Emilie’s sexual encounter in a park with a stranger a la “Unfaithful” (the one that starred Diane Lane) does not strengthen the woman’s liberation from her marriage to her husband, although I must admit the scene is sexy.
What makes this early 90s production stand out is its lack of hypocrisy; it does not attempt to universally define French temperament within its almost two-hour running time. Although the film circles around a family in a postmodern French society, there are leitmotifs that a person from the Philippines can relate with such as closeness between siblings, shared childhood memories, traditional parents-children relation, and interpersonal relation in general. The film’s strength, however, proves to be its weakness. It’s lack of a central theme as there are a lot of ‘subthemes’ that confuse the focus from the brother-sister relationship can leave the viewers unsated by the film’s conclusion.
But I guess this is what a film is supposed to be. It asks mundane queries, such as “What is your favorite season?” that ends up answering profound questions in life. For if art really has to imitate life then it has to represent reality in its rawness, no holds barred.
The films admixture of complexity and simplicity, no wonder, makes it a classic in French film history.
The film is one of screened features in the French Film Festival which is now on its 14th year. The festival being held at Shangri-La Plaza Mall is sponsored by the French Embassy. This year’s theme is “Bringing Cannes to Manila” and will run until the 12th of June.