The Rendez-Vous with French Cinema opened with “Valley of Love”, most notable for the first collaboration between 2 icons of French cinema, Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu, since “Loulou” in 1980. The setting is Death Valley. Before the film, Huppert spoke of the “very hot” temperature during filming. It was announced that Huppert was in New York to promote the film for just 24 hours as she was involved in a stage performance.
Huppert and Depardieu portray divorced actors. Their son whom they had neglected has committed suicide. Each has received a letter, supposedly from their deceased son, that if they visit certain locations in Death Valley, he will appear to them. They have reunited in Death Valley to follow the instructions in the letter.
The film takes a while to build interest, from other than the star pairing, mainly because of the rambling dialog in the screenplay written by director Guillaume Nicloux.
Huppert is the best thing about the film. She gives another remarkable performance, showing the depth of her character’s anguish and fear at a possible metaphysical encounter. Like his character, Depardieu’s performance lacks energy for much of the film. Depardieu’s wide girth is addressed as he speaks dialog about not being happy with the way he now looks.
The film improves as it focuses on the tragedy of the son’s death, as does Depardieu’s performance. Depardieu becomes more emotional, glowing with remembrance of an experience at a hotel with his ex-wife. He also shows intensity at a climactic encounter.
In a future post, Isabelle Huppert discusses her enduring career.