Sometimes a film comes along that blows you away – such was the case with Au Revoir Là-Haut. Black humour, pathos and tragedy are balanced carefully in this visual delight of a movie.
No wonder it won the César last year for cinematography – as well as for best director, production design, costume design and adapted screenplay.
But, given such acclaim, how come I had never heard of it before? It just came up as a suggestion when I googled best films of 2018 last week.
With the new year comes a resolution to improve my French and I was browsing online for help. Watching films or listening to music can be effective ways to learn a language.
In this case, the storyline intrigued me, so I bought a copy of the DVD.
The film tells the tale of two men who meet in the trenches of northern France towards the end of world war I. In a rather brutal introduction to the film, they save each other’s lives in turn and so form a bond.
“Black humour, pathos and tragedy are balanced carefully in this visual delight of a movie”
The younger of the two, artistic genius Edouard Péricourt – played by Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, who you may recognise from 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) – loses half his face in battle. Back in Paris after the war is over, he creates increasingly elaborate masks to hide his disfigurement.
The older man, accountant Albert Maillard, is played by Albert Dupontel, who also directed the film and adapted the story from the bestselling book by Pierre Lemaitre.
Together with a young girl who befriends them, Péricourt and Maillard embark on a monumental scam that involves designing war memorials.
Here’s the trailer.
That may have whetted your appetite. I won’t give away more of the plot, in case you want to see it.
Incredibly, the film hasn’t been released in the UK or US. However, the French DVD, available from Amazon.fr and elsewhere, has the option of English subtitles.
If you are a fan of French cinema, it’s a must-see. It will be the best film you see this month.
What’s more, I picked up some extra vocabulary while watching it, so my pleasure is doubled.