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THE SINGER

Director: XAVIER GIANNOLI

FRANCE • 2006 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 112 MIN


GERARD DEPARDIEU. WRITE THE BIG MAN OFF AT YOUR PERIL, SINCE THIS BEAUTIFULLY NUANCED PORTRAIT OF AN AGEING SHOWBAND SINGER IS RIGHT UP THERE WITH THE BEST WORK OF HIS CAREER.
When we first see him delivering slushy Gallic oldies to the dinner-dance crowd in a provincial hotel, it’s easy to tag his burly Alain Moreau as some sort of sad joke, a guy who’s gone from never-was to has-been with nothing in between. And yet, with the arrival of Cecile de France’s Marion, on a night out with a local estate agency, suddenly there’s a spark. Initially, she’s having none of it, but he is a charmer, this guy, and it’s not long before she has succumbed. Then again, as a young mother in the throes of a messy break-up, the last thing she needs in her life is some past-it crooner who’s doing old folks’ homes.
It could have been played as a ghastly piss-take, but writer-director Xavier Giannoli’s Cassavetes-like affection for his characters and Depardieu’s lived-in, warmly charismatic performance help us realise that although he’s not exactly hip, Moreau has his own sort of integrity, singing wise old love songs to the sort of mature audiences who’ve been there themselves. He’s ultra-ingratiating, a big teddy-bear of a man, and yet loneliness is the point where his life overlaps with this buttoned-down, lost young woman (the impressive Cecile de France gives as good as she gets). An unsentimental yet moving and memorable story of an unexpected emotional connection, this is quite simply note-perfect.—Trevor Johnston.

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