The French have a strong tradition of approaching the art of film-making from a literary standpoint. Less focussed on action or plot, these films are more of a meditation on life and the human condition. Director Pascal Bonitzer brings his philosophical background to bear, embedding it in the main character Damian (Jean-Pierre Bacri).
When theatre director Iva (Kristen Scott Thomas) asks her partner, the crumpled professor Damian, to speak to his father (Claude Rich) about getting papers for her sister’s friend, he steals himself to do the thing he finds hardest – to ask his father for a favour. When he bumps into the troubled Aurore (Isabelle Carré) and finds out his wife is having an affair, everything begins to fall apart; much to the chagrin of their perplexed son Noé (Marin Orcand Tourrès).
As Jean-Paul begins to become more desperate, the obtuse script adds a fair amount of humour to his situation. As the adults regress towards childhood only Noé manages to maintain a sense of decorum. Bacri proves again to be a consummate character actor whilst Claude Rich steals every scene he’s in as the self-obsessed and slightly perverted senior judge. KST is superb as ever whilst Isabelle Carré continues to be utterly delightful presence on screen.
Whilst Looking for Hortense is an entertaining study of human relationships, there seems to be a deeper meaning that just lingers outside of your grasp. Whilst everyone behaves badly, only the teenage son acts like a grown-up.
Looking for Hortense is out now at the Showroom.