Telluride 43: Richard Gere as “Norman”

The title role in “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer” is a strong fit for Richard Gere as a man trying to pass himself as a business “consultant”. Norman continually tries to cultivates insiders, attempting to insinuate himself to prominent people with whom he can make the latest “business opportunity”. He uses contacts, however tenuous, for getting into prominent social events.

Richard Gere and Lior Ashkenazi in “Norman”

In Gere’s skillful performance, desperation comes through Norman’s fast talking. Norman remains driven, hopeful that his mostly futile luck may change. Not as successful as he pretends to be, Norman is shown taking his “office” calls on a cell phone in an alley, even sitting on garbage bags.

The impressively varied supporting cast includes Michael Sheen (“The Queen”) as a sympathetic relative of Norman, Steve Buscemi as his rabbi, and Charlotte Gainsbourg (“Nymphomaniac”) as a fellow passenger.

Richard Gere in “Norman”

The film is written and directed by Joseph Cedar who made the memorable Israeli film “Footnote” (2011). Cedar directs this absorbing film at a lively pace with visual inventiveness. The screenplay takes some clever turns, particularly after Norman befriends an Israeli politician (Lior Ashkenazi) who becomes Prime Minister, giving Norman some unexpected opportunities.

At an outdoor panel at the Telluride Film Festival, Cedar said it was “amazing” that so many gentile actors “resembled my family.” He added in the “most crowded” New York City, “nobody cares” when you’re shooting a film, describing the location as “vibrant…dizzy…amazing.”

French Rendez-Vous 2015: “3 Hearts”

The annual Rendez-Vous with French Cinema co-sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and uniFrance films again showed a variety of contemporary French-language films at 3 locations in New York City. After some of the screenings, directors and actors gave insights into their films.

French icon Catherine Deneuve appeared in 3 selections. Denueve continues to make intriguing career choices, often to notable effect. Deneuve appeared in the opening film “3 Hearts” (“3 Coeurs”), in a supporting role, portraying the mother of real life daughter Chiara Mastroianni, as she has done in films such as “My Favorite Season” (1993) and “Beloved” (2011).

Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, and Charlotte Gainsbourg in “3 Hearts”

Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, and Charlotte Gainsbourg in “3 Hearts”

The film is directed and co-written by Benoit Jacquot, known for central female character in previous efforts like “Farewell My Queen” (2012). This film focuses on a conflicted male character. Marc (Benoît Poelvoorde, “Man Bites Dog”), is a tax inspector who misses his train to Paris, remaining in a small French town. He meets Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Nymphomaniac”). They have an immediate connection and spend the night together. They agree to meet in Paris.

Marc is prevented from making the meeting and is unable to contact Sylvie who returns to her unfulfilled life, moving to the US with her husband. Back in the town, Marc gives professional help to Sophie (Mastroianni) who has taken over her mother’s antique shop. Their friendly relationship deepens and they become engaged to marry. Marc is unaware that Sophie is the sister of Sylvie. He begins to wonder after he sees Sylvie’s unique lighter and spots her face in family photos. Sylvie returns to France for the wedding.

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Chiara Mastroianni in “3 Hearts”

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Chiara Mastroianni in “3 Hearts”

Deneuve is an elegant presence and skillfully shows her character’s growing awareness and concern of some connection between Marc and his sister-in-law. Will the memorable night between Sylvie and Marc disrupt the close relationship between the 2 sisters and threaten the marriage between Marc and Sophie? Ominous music builds up the tension.

Benoît Poelvoorde in “3 Hearts”

Benoît Poelvoorde in “3 Hearts”

Benoit Jacquot said that while writing the screenplay, he had in mind romantic film classics like “Back Street”, “Love Affair” and “An Affair to Remember,” as well as Douglas Sirk’s movies. While the film has a contemporary setting, the set up of the missed meeting seems to belong to an earlier era, as Sylvie and Marc could have exchanged phone numbers or emails.

A talented cast shows the emotional complications a man in love with 2 sisters, maintaining interest through some contrived and melodramatic events. Mastroianni is particularly effective.

Future posts include the latest films of Catherine Deneuve, Nathalie Baye, Guillaume Canet, Melanie Laurent (as director), Andre Techine, Cedric Kahn, and Christophe Honore.