Monday, May 7, 2012

Film Club Review #9

Based on the ''beloved'' bestseller, Mona Achache's The Hedgehog portrays the lonely existence of Renée, a middle-aged, dowdy concierge in a well-to-do Parisian apartment building and Paloma, the daughter of a wealthy family in the same building who records her life with a video camera and plans to kill herself on her twelfth birthday. In their own ways they've both stopped believing in life. Then mysterious new tenant Mr. Ozu arrives and they begin to see things differently. Ironically, for a film that's all about hidden depth The Hedgehog has all the intellectual riguor of a mind/body/spirit bestseller, full of thumpingly obvious symbolism, never really engaged with existential crisis, happy instead to set it up to be skittled by the power of love or the easy uplift of a good old cry. Togo Igawa does wonders with that cardboard paragon of Eastern virtue Mr Ozu, almost making him a flesh and blood character and Josiane Balasko is excellent as Renee, her wary, deadpan expression gradually revealing the sweet woman hidden beneath the grouchy exterior. Life is worth living, the film tells us, if you open yourself up to it, reveal the real you hidden inside. Which is fine, of course, but does it have to be made explicit by a secret room of books that constitute Renee’s true personality, a room with a door that’s always closed. Just like her heart. She’s a hedgehog, y'see, prickly on the outside, but inside ‘she’s as refined as that falsely lethargic, staunchly private, and terribly elegant creature’. (This from the mouth of an eleven-year-old). Appearances can be deceiving then. Like this film which prides itself on being philosophical, references the great art of Tolstoy and Yasujiro Ozu, but underneath the elegant surface it's just soft-headed trash dressed up in arty clothes, a so sad but so lovely experience for educated sentimentalists.

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