When a film director is summoned to a sleepy seaside village in Normandie to present his film, he is entangled in the lives of those awakened by his work.
It is said that the only thing you need to create theatre is a space. So it stands to be true that, in the case of movies, you only need a cinema. From there you can change the lives of anyone that chooses to sit in that darkened space and escape the world around them. Géraud Champreux (Johnny Rasse) is a filmmaker from Paris, France who has been summoned to a small, seaside village in Normandie to screen his homoerotic arthouse piece. “The only thing that pulls in an audience are comedies and American Action films.” says the theater’s usher. This proves true as the lights dim on the screening, and, aside from Balthazar (Mickaël Pelissier) the young projectionist, a single woman sits alone to watch. So why was Johnny summoned to screen his movie precisely where no one seemed to want to see it? Isolated, without his phone, Géraud does what any Parisian would do when in a quandary and gets sloppy drunk until things become a bit clearer.
“…a sweet-hearted distraction, nothing more, nothing less.”
This is the leisurely pace that My Life with James Dean weaves and unfolds its mysteries. This beguiling love letter to the power of cinema cares not that you don’t have all the answers. You will get them, in time. But then again, it isn’t so much about an outcome as it is a the journey each of these people are on. Catherine (Nathalie Richard), the scattered film programmer that invited Géraud to her tiny berg, is apoplectic as her partner Louise (Marie Vernalde) has left her, forgetting to make the screening she booked. Gladys (Juliette Damiens), manager of the front desk at the hotel seems to have a passing interest in Géraud, though it is clear Géraud is gay. Young Balthazar seems so fixated on the film Géraud brings to town that he invites his father Tony (Bertrand Belin) to watch it when it screens a second time.
While there is enough happening to keep the viewer passively entertained, it is the unsaid that becomes the most interesting. Choisy refrains from dropping the usual hints that orient an audience, instead allowing scenes to unfold, letting us absorb contextual elements that give us a sense of what is really going on. It is this method that soon provokes us to slow down, look closer, and become accustomed to picking up nuance.
“…breezy coastals knocking around within their own world and reaching for something greater, spurred on by the inspiration of film.”
The performances are all wonderfully sweet and understated, yet with an edge of Almodovarian silliness. Instead we have breezy coastals knocking around within their own world and reaching for something greater, spurred on by the inspiration of film. Richard’s Catherine, a sun-bleached lover of the cerebral world of movies, seems like a fish out of water unless comfortably seated in the theater. Rasse’s Géraud is a troubled, comically confused romantic who longs for a deeper meaning when sometimes there is nothing left to discern. The only moment that feels false and completely out of left field is a plot point involving Pelissier’s Balthazar. A quibble that left me scratching my head, but hardly one that ruined the movie for me.
My Life with James Dean is a traipsing treatise through the lives of charming characters longing for a little more. Relaxed, yet absorbing, the movie is a sweet-hearted distraction, nothing more, nothing less.
My Life with James Dean is worth Matinee (***).
Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)