Lucas (Denis Podalydès), a young sociologist from Paris, is working on an oral history survey on the problems of bachelorhood in the Béarn, a rural area in south-west of France – a subject matter with which he seems to be particularly familiar, having grown up in this region himself.
In his native village he reconnects with his childhood friends Isabelle (the luminous Natasha Regnier), and Simon (Clovis Cordillac), both in their early thirties, as is he. During his interviews with Simon, who took over the farm and lives alone with his mother, thus the ideal subject for this study, Lucas discovers that ten years ago, Simon and Isabelle were in love with each other and were about to get married. However, Simon’s mother, violently opposed to the marriage, threatens to burn the farm. Torn between his mother’s intrigues and his love for his fiancée, he misses the deadline set by Isabelle who cannot understand why he hasn’t shown up. Precipitously she leaves the village for Paris where she finds a job at a post-office and gets married.
The deeper Lucas is drawn into the stories of his friends, the more he loses the orientation of his study and of his own life as well. Although his project director presses him to conclude the survey and finally orders him back to Paris, Lucas stubbornly continues his search for the utopian dream of the green paradise of our childhood loves. He fills cassette after cassette on his antediluvian tape recorder with his intimate conversations, only to add one misunderstanding to another about the real feelings that link the three friends together, ending up lost in translation.
In a twist worthy of Marivaux, Lucas is firmly convinced that Simon and Isabelle are still in love with each other and he tries everything possible to bring them together again. What he doesn’t realize, though, is that Isabelle has already fallen in love with him, and is ready to ditch her Parisian husband. Whereas Lucas’ girlfriend in Paris, a brilliant researcher and also his colleague, doesn’t have a clue to what could be possibly detaining him in this remote village, which is putting their publication at risk.
In the inimitable, wonderfully light French way, Emmanuel Bourdieu succeeds in telling us a bittersweet love story about “les confusions amoureuses”, set against the background of a sociological survey. He plunges us right into the heart of this “other” France, the fragile rural world on the verge of disappearing, where his protagonists evolve far away from the mundane world of those young prodigious Parisian intellectuals so dear to French filmmakers, leaving Lucas an orphaned wanderer between these two worlds.
Emmanuel Bourdieu.For his first feature film, Emmanuel Bourdieu draws on a milieu intimately familiar to him. Remote rural Béarn, home to the famous “Cadets de Gascogne”, the valiant line of belligerent soldiers, is also the birthplace of one of the most brilliant intellectual figures of contemporary France, the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. He is also the filmmaker’s father, and published a whole series of studies, based on oral history, on the bachelorhood of farmers in this region.
© FIPRESCI 2003