Friday, September 23, 2011
"My Afternoon with Margueritte" Romances Books
By Skip Sheffield
Love to read?
A romance does not have to involve sex.
“My Afternoons with Margueritte” is a very romantic film. Though sex is mentioned, it is irrelevant to the central story of an overweight, middle-aged loser and a highly educated, intelligent and compassionate 95-year-old woman.
Co-written and directed by Jean Becker, “My Afternoons” is a romantic fable about the joys and rehabilitative powers of literacy.
Germaine Chazes (Gerard Depardieu, fatter than ever) lives in a trailer in the garden behind his mother’s house in a small French town.
Bullied and humiliated as a child by other children, his teachers and his own parents, Germaine has withdrawn so much that he is functionally illiterate. Everyone in town thinks he is stupid except for Annette (Sophie Guillemin), a young woman who drives a bus. Germaine’s self-esteem is so low he does not appreciate Annette’s attentions.
One afternoon Germain sees an old lady in the park, counting pigeons. Viola! Germaine counts pigeons too, so he strikes up a conversation with Margueritte (Gisele Casadesus), a woman of great learning and experience.
Like Germaine, Margueritte is under-appreciated; by her nephew, who grudgingly looks after her at an assisted-living facility.
Another afternoon, Germain notices Magueritte reading a book. It is Albert Camus’ existential classic “The Plague” of all things. Germain asks Margueritte to read some of it to him. He is transfixed by the prose of Camus about a horrendous plague that struck Algeria, spread by rats. Margueritte offers to lend him the book, but he says no- ashamed to admit he can’t read Camus’ complex, metaphorical sentences.
So Germain’s afternoons are spent listening to Margueritte read rather than counting pigeons. Inspired, he goes to the library and asks for something simple and easy to read.
Running parallel with this blossoming friendship is the decline of Germain’s tyrannical, abusive mother (Claire Maurier).
There are a couple convenient plot twists that change the course of Germain’s life by film’s end, and it’s not just that Germain does indeed learn to read. This film has been criticized as being too treacley and sweet, but a little sweetness sometimes is good for the soul. I’ll admit I love reading, and I love the thought that people can change for the better late in life, even if it is just a movie. That’s why I loved this film.