Catherine Deneuve continues to have one of the most enduring and notable acting careers in film, from youthful incandescence (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, 1964) to mental unraveling (“Repulsion”, 1965) to cool elegance (“Belle de Jour”, 1967) to alluring vampire (“The Hunger”, 1983) to her Oscar-nominated performance of a plantation owner in turbulent times (“Indochine”, 1992) to her terrific portrait of a former beauty queen in last year’s “On My Way”. (https://cinemasight.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/french-rendez-vous-2014-catherine-deneuve-in-on-my-way/)
Her latest, “In the Courtyard” (“Dans la Cour”) contains one of her strongest roles in her best recent film. The director and co-writer is Pierre Salvadori who previously made clever, character-driven comedies [“Après Vous” (2003), “Priceless” (2006)]. Salvadori successfully turns more serious “In the Courtyard.”
Antoine (Gustave Kervern) is a scruffy musician unable to find employment. Mathilde, (Catherine Deneuve), a retiree, encourages her husband (Feodor Atkine) to hire him as caretaker for an apartment building where they reside because she feels comfortable around Antoine’s disheveled appearance. She can become annoyed with the new employee as when she throws a pear at Antoine from the sixth floor.
A crack in the apartment wall causes Mathilde to become afraid of the ground sinking. Deneuve gives a deep emotional range to her character. Like the wall, Mathilde’s stylish façade begins to crumble. A disastrous slide show for the neighbors escalates into alarming turmoil for her. She develops a growing rapport with Antoine, confiding in him alone.
Kervern is very effective as a man whose inner pain has controlled his life. Mathilde and Antoine become a compelling combination. Salvadori said he had wanted to work with Deneuve for ages and wrote “In the Courtyard” for her. The role is a great fit.
The other characters Antoine encounters are fully realized with intriguing quirks that turn darker as Antoine finds he cannot remain apart from others. Salvadori expertly combines humor with poignancy.
Next post: another impressive Deneuve film