All About Them (À trois on y va, France-Belgium 2015)

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This film was part of the Official Selection at the Leeds International Film Festival. It is also part of French Film Festival UK (La fête du CINEMA 23), which is touring the country. There are four titles at LIFF, the two still to come are The Big Blue (1988) and The Measure of a Man (2015), both on Thursday November 12th.

This is a very funny but also quite delicate comedy. The French title translates literally as ‘For three shall we go’, but more colloquially as ‘One, two, three – go!’. The three is that classic French relationship, the ménage à trois. This suggests parallels with a range of films including a couple of French classics. However this film has its own distinctive take on the relationship. It works really well, partly due to the excellent performances with Anaiïs Demoustier as Mélodie, Sophie Verbeeck as Charlotte and Félix Moati as Micha. Mélodie is an advocate or lawyer, Micha is a vet and Charlotte is a part-time painter and singer. They are supported by a pretty strong script, excellent cinematography and sound. The film has a number of nice allusions, one is regarding a quotation thought to be Alfred de Musset but which turns out to be Marilyn Monroe.

The film’s director Jérôme Bonnell, was there for a Q&A after the film. This was chaired by Richard Mowe, from the French Film Festival UK. Unfortunately he started off as the end credits of the film were still rolling with the sound  turned off: not a good idea. He also had to repeat the questions from the audience as the microphone did not stretch that far, and I thought he subtly altered a couple of these.

Bonnell first talked about the gestation and production of the film: similar to the quoted interview in the Festival Catalogue:

“The idea of this film lay dormant in my head for ten years. A couple who have an affair with the same person without knowing it. And it’s the enthusiasm of the tenacious producer Edouard Weil that spurred me on with the script, from a story I described to him in just a few words. It was then a surprise when the heart of the film struck me. This often happens: the depth of the story remains undercover emerging slowly during the process of writing, revealing something that’s been buried in us all along. In this case. as I constructed the scenario, what touched me most was the idea that two people . . . were both so in love with a third . . . they would eventually fall in love with each other, remote-controlled by their unconscious, because there would be such a strong shared emotion, mutual empathy would turn into pure and simple love. This story is like a fantasy given the freedom to go beyond all the problems associated with love: lying, betrayal, sadness, jealousy . . . bringing peace where there is usually conflict.”

In response to questions from the audience, who clearly really enjoyed the film, Bonnell praised the cast and their contributions. He emphasised that the film was fiction. And he explained the use of numerous large close-ups in the film which he felt sprang from the nature of the story and the relationships: and he stressed how important were the performances in enabling him to do this.

Plot Spoiler:

The really interesting question concerned the ending. Late in the film the trio realise that there are three affairs going on. Rather than being shocked or feeling betrayed they enjoy a night of love making. In the morning they have to rush to a wedding: this seemed a reference to the British Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). They later leave the wedding reception to spend the night on the beach. In the morning Charlotte departs, leaving Mélodie and Micha together. They wake and find her gone.

Bonnell felt this was the right ending, because it seemed to him that Mélodie and Micha were a couple. He added that he experimented with an earlier ending, but that did not seem right.

I was unconvinced by this explanation. In fact as the film ran I expected the ending earlier, either with shot of the three at traditional wedding in a coastal rural church or on the beach as they happily ran into the sea. I did not find the idea of a ‘couple’ convincing. I did not sense this during the film. As a friend remarked, Charlotte and Mélodie seemed more of a couple than Micha and Mélodie. This also seemed to run contrary to the quotation above.

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Bonnell did twice stressed the idea of ‘lying’ in the relationships. This seemed a bit of a misnomer as well. Strictly speaking in the films, whilst the characters are ‘economical with the truth’, [beloved in the British Parliament], they do not lie. And there is no sense of betrayal when they discover each other’s affairs. To be honest, this struck me more typical of British inhibitions that my sense of French mores. I did wonder if this was a producer’s requirement [the production is not dominated by men], I also noticed that a sequence in Paris [the film is set in Lille] was signalled by a shot of Notre Dame.

Bonnell did also remark that he felt that the film could change the characters and their sexual orientation and the story would still work in a parallel fashion. This is so and is one angle that makes the film really interesting.

Ending apart, this is well worth watching and very funny. There is a party sequence where the film turns from the comedy to near farce. At the same time the relationships have an interesting dramatic quality. Mélodie ‘s advocate work involves a suggestive contrast with her personal sexual life.

The film is screening again at LIFF on Tuesday 10th and Wednesday 11th of November Note, it has an 18 Certificate in the UK: the BBFC over the top as usual.

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