Irish Film Institute -Comedy of Innocence

Comedy of Innocence

Just one of three films the prolific Raoul Ruiz has completed since his magnificent Marcel Proust adaptation Time Regained, Comedy of Innocence finds contemporary cinema’s great surrealist playing amusing games with the French art movie and the mystery thriller. It’s almost as if Luis Buñuel was still around, subverting the bourgeoisie’s sense of order and normality by revealing its most cherished beliefs as illusory fictions. Comedy of Innocence is in fact based on a 1929 Italian novel by ‘magic realist’ author Masimo Bontempielli, but Ruiz has set his film in modern-day Paris, where a bourgeois family live out a comfortable yet strangely arid existence.
Nine-year-old Camille (Nils Hugon) is the only child of Pierre (Denis Podalydes) and Ariane (Isabelle Huppert). Somewhat neglected by his parents, Camille spends much of his time recording events with his camcorder. One day he surprises Ariane by announcing that he wants to stay with his ‘real’ mother, whom he says lives on the other side of town. The somewhat distanced Ariane (Huppert is excellent even when reprising one of her steely Chabrol roles) plays along in the belief that Camille simply has an imaginary friend. Matters become more complicated when they pay a visit to this other mother, Isabella (Jeanne Balibar of Va savoir), who insists that Camille is her lost son Paul.
What might sound like a fanciful children’s story is transformed by Ruiz into another of his engaging intellectual fantasies that’s packed with visual treats, artistic references and teasing ambiguities. Ruiz provides plenty of clues and even some answers to the mystery of the boy with two mothers, but the chief pleasure of his beguiling film is in finding your own solutions to the puzzle.
France, 2000. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 95 mins.

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