Andre Techine is most certainly a man whose work impresses! He is solely responsible for launching the acting career of Juliette Binoche (Rendez-vous) and further encouraging the artistic aspirations of Isabelle Adjani (Barocco). During the early 90s Andre Techine also gathered the attention of international media with the release of his controversial Les Roseaux Sauvages a.k.a Wild Reeds (1994).
The director's latest work titled simply Les Temps Qui Changent a.k.a Changing Times (2004) teams up arguably the two biggest French actors working in cinema today – Gerard Depardieu (Germinal) and Catherine Deneuve (Indochine). Here the two play a couple caught up in a sea of painful memories.
Many years ago Antoine was madly in love with Cecile, they shared some good times together. Now significantly older and with plenty of responsibilities the two accidentally meet in the Moroccan capital Tangiers. Cecile has married a local doctor whose successful practice has allowed her to explore a career she has always been interested in-radio.
Antoine however is still single, visibly overweight, and passionate about architecture. While negotiating with a local company he accidentally sees Cecile and all of a sudden his world collapses with a bang- a young heart trapped in an old man's body is suddenly awaken. Antoine decides that it is now or never-he must tell Cecile what he couldn't admit to her when they were young.
But...times are different now.
I have some mixed feelings about this film! In fact, I am unsure whether I liked it or not. Parts of it seem to evoke comparisons with Andre Techine's early work (plenty of emphasis on detail, strong camera work, convincing characters) yet the storyline often seems congested with too many clichés. At times it feels as if too much is being asked from the main protagonists when what they must endure is hardly as dramatic as the scriptwriter (Laurent Guyot) wanted it to be.
Furthermore, the fact that past and present are so closely intertwined in Changing Times and yet only the present seems adequately addressed by Andre Techine and Co makes the pacing of this film quite awkward. Why? During key scenes when Antoine and Cecile admit that there is hardly any possibility for them to once again exist as a couple the film draws from past events that visibly disrupt the rhythm of the story. Finally, all of the people who now play an important part in the ex-lovers' lives also seem to be battling their own demons.
What does work in Changing Times making it a film worthy of our attention is the finesse and elegance Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu bring to the screen. As mentioned above often times the script hits a sour note (relying on overused clichés) yet the two aging actors manage to successfully soften with their presence what otherwise would have looked as a disaster. A nonchalant gesture, a rough movement, a tiny wrinkle on Catherine Denueve's beautiful face revealing pain and disappointment...great actors always manage to separate themselves from mediocrity. Changing Times is as good of an example as I have seen!!!
In 2005 Changing Times was nominated for Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. During the same year the film was also nominated with Cesar for Most Promising Actor (Malik Zidi).
How Does the Film Look?
Just as the actual film the video treatment left some mixed feelings in me. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's the image quality is good but not solid. It appears that Koch Lorber have made a partial attempt to transfer properly the film from a PAL master, hence there isn't any "ghosting" here yet, I did notice some mild "combing" which suggests that a better effort was needed. On a positive side the print is mostly free of any damage and I could not spot any disturbing dirt or marks. Unfortunately there is some notable macro-blocking which might bother those of you with more sensitive equipments. To sum it all up this presentation by Koch Lorber is certainly above average yet it seems like the company always falls a tiny bit short of delivering what DVD enthusiasts look for in a quality product.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with its original French-Arabic 2.0 DD language track and optional English subtitles the film sounds good!! I did not detect any disturbing drop-outs or hissing(s) and the dialog was very easy to follow. Perhaps a more elaborate 5.1 mix would have been a great addition but it seems like providing only a basic audio mix is what Koch Lorber are currently in favor of.
Aside from the theatrical trailer the only extra on this DVD is a short interview with actor Gilbert Melki in which he talks about the film and Andre Techine's work. Quite frankly this isn't a groundbreaking interview that will provide you with something you did not already know about Andre Techine's style yet I recommend that you listen to it.
Some critics always seem to fall victims of big-name actors. No matter what project they become a part of the reviews are always glowing, full of impressive quotes!
Such appears to be the case with Andre Techine's latest film Changing Times- a work that has inspired some spectacular (and necessitating head-scratching) reviews.
While I have a special place in my library for the work of Andre Techine (especially his early films) and the two actors the French director has chosen for his story Changing Times left me rather cold. Yes, the acting is great and I would not have expected any less but the script is notably lacking!!
If a fan of Deneuve and Depardieu I would recommend that you see this film, if not it is probably a better idea if you looked into Andre Techine's early films.