Let’s Talk About the Rain (Parlez-moi de la pluie)

Posted on: 11th November 2008  |

Director: Agn?s Jaoui
Starring: Jean-Pierre Bacri,Jamel Debbouze, Agn?s Jaoui, Pascale Arbillot
UK Release date: 7 November 2008
Certificate: 12A (110 mins)

There’s a scene in Let’s Talk About the Rain (Parlez-moi de la pluie) where three of the characters are driving through the countryside in southern France: Agathe, an aspiring politician, has just been left by her boyfriend amidst accusations that he is little more to her than another appointment in her schedule; both Michel and Karim, the two film-makers who have chosen her as their subject, are on the borderline of stepping into affairs with Agathe’s sister and a colleague respectively. None of the car’s passengers knows the truth about the other. The camera cuts back to a static shot of the car passing before one of those slabs of mountain that jut throughout the countryside and we are given the sense of the smallness of these temporary human concerns – and immediately we are back in the car with the squabbling threesome.

Farce has always worked on this premise: that seen with the right squint, all of human life can be represented as a cosmic joke – “Man thinks; God laughs”, as the proverb goes. When it works very well, as it does in Let’s Talk About the Rain, we can see life with a double vision: the humour that comes from the blundering of foolish humans, and the weight of their humanity and inner lives. Michel, played by Jean-Pierre Bacri, consistently exhibits this: trying to impress his son who has returned from an exciting trip to America with his step-dad, Michel sits with him in a restaurant and bluffs his way through the menu, proclaiming that cassata is “like custard with raspberries”, only for the waiter to arrive and insist that it is vanilla ice cream. Michel shrugs – ice cream, custard, it’s pretty much the same. Later he stands before a flock of sheep, trying to scare them away from the site of the filming, only to give up and announce resignedly, “I have no authority over sheep”.

Let’s Talk About the Rain utilises the stock situations of mainstream French films: the gap between Paris and the countryside; relationships and fidelity; the positions of women and non-white French people in society. That it transcends stereotypes is down to the skilful pace of the story-telling as much as the script, which had the audience laughing out loud at several points, always an impressive achievement for a subtitled film. There is also a lightness in the use of symbol that reveals a respect for the audience’s intelligence that is rare: Agathe, always the effortless favourite as a child, is occupied texting whilst her sister busies herself with the flowers left on their mother’s gravestone. Again, when Karim is asked what he would like to drink when he arrives at the house to interview Agathe, it is his mother who will serve him and his pause before he answers “nothing” is enough to invite us into his world for a moment. Despite the slapstick and farce there is an authenticity that runs throughout all of the characters.

In short, it is an excellent film, one worth watching in the cinema to get the full wealth of that part of France, with its sudden thunderstorms soaking arid rock and rivers and forests never far away. We have enough rain about us at the moment that a film speaking of it may seem superfluous: but it speaks in such a voice as to draw us away from a dismal winter and into a happier land.

Nathan Koblintz

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Let's Talk About The Rain


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