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Reines d’un jour

One of France’s leading women filmmakers, Marion Vernoux had the excellent Rien à faire ( Empty Days) in last year’s CineFrance. Now she returns with Reines d’un jour, a more expansive and populist portrayal of the fragmented lives of a group of Parisians. Over the course of one eventful day, Vernoux focuses on a handful of characters as they play out their private dramas of seduction, adultery, pregnancy, divorce and abandonment. The film doesn’t shy away from portraying women’s faults, but even the characters’ most questionable behaviour is sympathetically incorporated into a warm and attractive comedy of manners.
Hortense (the ever remarkable Karine Viard) is an insecure but self-obsessed mother who’s juggling two extramarital affairs. Marie (Helene Fillieres) is a photographer who discovers she’s pregnant from a one-shot affair and whose flip attitude creates new obstacles for herself. The misadventures of these two very different women are interwoven with the sad stories of an ageing man (the veteran Victor Lanoux) who’s awaiting a visit from an old flame (Jane Birkin), and a bus-driver (Sergi Lopez) whose wife joins him on his route only to announce that she wants to end their marriage.
All the characters come together in the end, of course, and the film’s comic highlight is an embarrassing sequence in a restaurant where Hortense’s skill at juggling people and emotions is severely tested. Vernoux herself sees the film a collage of our most intimate miseries, the ones that make us laugh when we look back on them but at the time bring out compassion. That mix of laughter and empathy is the key to the film’s success.
France, 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 91 mins.

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