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2 Autumns, 3 Winters
2 Autumns, 3 Winters is a charming, quirky slice of independent cinema made in France. The story revolves around the 33 year old Arman (Vincent Macaigne), who decides he wants to discover something new in his life. After working a nameless job (which the film notes is inconsequential to the story), Arman needs someone special in his life. His life lacks the romantic side he so desires and needs.
Arman decides to start up jogging again. On the experience of his first jog out (after an extended break from his exercising) he meets the charming girl Amélie (Maud Wyler), 27 years old, who is also seeking something new to experience in her own life. The two exchange a few words and then part ways. Will they ever meet again? No effort was made to exchange their numbers or plan ahead. As it turns out, they don't meet for several months, but as the story unfolds it's becomes increasingly clear that they will meet again before story's end.
Arman's best friend is Benjamin (Bastien Bouillon), who we learn attended film school with Armin. He made odd short films and experimental works but didn't get far in art school. He eventually decided to pursue something else. Upon one of his casual day-out strolls, he has something surprising strike him: a stroke. Even though he is young, the stroke comes on so suddenly that is shocks him and he loses his ability to control himself. Lying on the ground, alone, Benjamin is without any way to seek help. A stranger trips over him on the street and helps to get him to an Emergency room, where Benjamin faces a long road to recovery and is surprised to meet and fall in love with his rehabilitator, a girl named Katia (Audrey Bastien). Though the event was harsh and difficult, Benjamin also begins to find love in life to cherish with welcome arms.
As the film explores these characters and their relationships (with more attention given to Armin and Amélie, as the protagonists) it becomes clear that what started off as a seemingly conventional romantic comedy told in a independent style is actually a serious rumination on relationships between people and the experiences (both the good and the bad) that partners can share with one another as they try to make sense of their relationships: both for themselves and in relation to each other.
Writer/Director Sébastien Betbeder gives the film an intimate style with an approach that allows for beautiful cinematography (exquisitely photographed by Sylvain Verdet). The handheld high-def photography is intermittently meshed with 16mm photography; a throwback to the French New Wave that clearly inspired some aspects of the film. Those jazzy free-spirited films have played a great part in cinema history on the whole, and it's wonderful to see a modern French film produced which is so clearly wearing it's love of Truffaut, Godard, and other New Wave masters on its sleeve.
As the viewer follows the storyline of 2 Autumns, 3 Winters the characters often break from the narrative plot in solemn moments of expression in which these characters speak directly to the audience about their lives, their feelings, and ultimately of the relationships they hold with the other characters in the film. This aspect gives 2 Autumns, 3 Winters a poetic style which feels fiercely independent: it helps the narrative excel with emphasis on character and specifically upon the drama inherent to the characters portrayed within the framework of the story.
Sébastien Betbeder has by effect made the film feel personal, regardless of whether or not the bulk of the story inspiration sprang from real-events or experiences. As a visual storyteller, Betbeder is someone with a keen sense of place: he seems to fundamentally understand how to create these cinematic feelings of warmth which can occur through how characters correspond to the locale. Visual cues, from emphasis on eyes, to human gestures helps to make the film more effective in its story of the ups and downs of the romance between Armin and Amélie.
Combined with a fine score by first-time composer Bertrand Betsch, 2 Autumns, 3 Winters excels because of its fine understanding of filmmaking. Even if the story told is one that has been heard before in a variety of forms (again and again throughout cinema), here is a filmmaker and crew who know how to bring a new spin to the table for a familiar concept and provide adequate originality for the procession. This is an exceptional debut by Sébastien Betbeder, which promises more great things to come from the filmmaker in the future. Fans of art-house cinematic outings and romantic dramas should consider exploring this thoughtful work.
Filmed with both Super 16mm film stock and utilizing a state-of-the-art Red Epic camera, this film looks splendid on DVD. For the majority of the presentation, the look is clean, clear, and dynamic in a way that shines triumphantly. Color reproduction is excellent and immersive to behold. Red Epic cameras are truly outstanding achievements in the filmmaking world and a production utilizing one while also maintaining (one presumes) a relatively shoestring budget astounds. It gives hope to aspiring filmmakers -- and has yielded amazing results already, that such an incredible option exists in the filmmaking world. (Of no direct relation to this PQ of this release, but I knew I was in love with Red cameras after seeing the impeccable cinematography of Soderbergh's Contagion).
Director Sébastien Betbeder was remarkably smart to make his film this way and the end result is satisfying. The 16mm portions give the film a throwback look that reminds one of classic French new wave and the Red Epic portions give a sharp sheen that does wonders to the presentation. As to the DVD presentation, as per the norm, Film Movement gives an impressive presentation (for the most part). Daylight scenes look remarkably sharp and clear and are highly impressive. Some nighttime sequences suffer somewhat from minor compression artifacts, which is unfortunate to discover, but mostly the DVD looks nice and will satisfy viewers.
Presented in French with English subtitles, the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio isn't anything remarkable, per se, but it sounds pleasant enough throughout with good dialogue reproduction and the music sounds okay during the film. I generally found it to be a serviceable and effective presentation for the experience and I doubt most viewers will find fault with the mix.
Film Movement includes a monthly short film (as per the norm). This month's selection is the French short Voyage D'Affaires (from director Sean Ellis). The short this month isn't all that impressive, but is a brief oddity about a man who finds something in his hotel room which is ultimately the cause of a personal question and awkward phone call. Viewers might find it a amusing piece, but I wasn't that impressed.
The release also includes biographies related to those who worked on 2 Autumns, 3 Winters and trailers promoting other Film Movement releases. There is also a note on why Film Movement selected the film and a statement from director Sébastien Betbeder.
2 Autumns, 3 Winters is a surprising film. At first glance it mostly seems to be a spin on being a romantic comedy but it's a lot different than one might expect going in. The flow of the story is unique and the style employed (which involves many sequences with the characters speaking to the audience) is impressive and personal. It helps the film to stand out. The actors do excellent work here and first-time feature-film director Sébastien Betbeder has made an excellent debut. Fans of independent cinema and quirky dramas are encouraged to check out 2 Autumns, 3 Winters, which (as the title implies) takes place over the course of that span of time.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.