One Fine Morning & To Kill a Tiger
Film reviews by Marc Glassman
One Fine Morning (Un beau matin)
Mia Hansen-Love, director & writer
Starring: Lea Seydoux (Sandra Kienzler), Pascal Greggory (Georg Kienzler), Melville Poupaud (Clement), Nicole Garcia (Francoise), Fejria Deliba (Leila), Camille Leban Martins (Linn), Sarah Le Picard (Elodie Kienzler)
More women than ever are making movies so it really shouldn’t be noteworthy when both films being reviewed in a week are the products of female directors. But sadly, it still is, and will likely be worthy of mention for a few more years at least. So let’s celebrate a week when a French art-house feature and a Canadian documentary made by women are the most exciting and challenging films released in Toronto.
One Fine Morning is the banal English translation of the more lyrical Un beau matin the latest film by French auteur Mia Hansen-Love. In a very straight-forward almost documentary manner, we follow the life of Lea Seydoux’s character Sandra Kienzler, a translator and single mother, who spends too much of her time taking care of Georg, her father, a philosophy professor, who is declining rapidly due to Benson’s Syndrome, a variation on Alzheimer’s disease. A good deal of the film is spent on Georg, who has lost his vision and most of his memory but remains admirably sweet tempered and polite as he is moved over and over again by a French medical system that takes over a year to find him a proper home.
Sandra is the focus of the film and her interpretation by Lea Seydoux makes the film so engaging. Though she is one of the most glamorous of French actors, Seydoux gives a down-to-earth performance as a hard-working mother and daughter, who enjoys her life but wants more out of it. She finds love in a complicated way with Clement, an old friend of her late husband, who is married but always had feelings for her. The latter part of One Fine Morning revolves around the mature and quite affecting relationship between Sandra and Clement as they negotiate his movement away from marriage into his new relationship with not only Sandra but her challenging young daughter.
Further complicating One Fine Morning is the sophisticated story of Sandra’s parents. Georg and Francoise may have divorced 20 years ago, but she is helping to empty his apartment and working with her daughters to deal with Georg in the bewildering number of rest-homes he’s temporarily forced to live in. Just as Pascal Greggory’s Georg is a key figure in the film so is Nicole Garcia’s Francoise, who remains a feisty radical, still demonstrating against Macron’s Establishment in her golden years.
One Fine Morning is an unvarnished portrayal of academic, and what we used to call bohemian, life in central Paris. The characters feel completely real, which isn’t surprising, given Mia Hansen-Love’s background. Her father was a philosophy professor, who recently died after years of dealing with the medical system. Hanson-Love’s mother, also a prof, was the inspiration for her film Things to Come/L’avenir, which starred Isabelle Huppert as a tough, brilliant older woman, who figures out her life after she and her husband divorce.
What’s most remarkable about both films is Hansen-Love’s ability to make other peoples’ lives feel relatable and almost plain and blunt. She makes every scene in her film feel tight and easily readable so the viewer never loses focus on the drama taking place. Hansen-Love knows how to direct actors. Huppert was terrific in L’avenir and Seydoux may out-do her in One Fine Morning. We care profoundly about Sandra and her relationship to her parents, daughter and lover. Un beau matin/One Fine Morning is a film that is deserving of the highest praise.
To Kill a Tiger
Indian-Canadian director Nisha Pahuja won’t please crowds as much as Hansen-Love’s One Fine Morning with To Kill a Tiger but her film is brilliant and accessible in its own way. Set in rural India, it is the true story of what happened when a 13-year-old girl was raped by three local boys after a wedding party had ended.
Pahuja focuses on Ranjit, the girl’s father, who broke tradition by backing his daughter when she asked him to press charges against the rapists. Although Ranjit found allies through the Srijan Foundation, a progressive organization dedicated to changing India’s often backward traditions, he encountered lots of opposition along the way.
In the village where Ranjit and his family live, rape is treated as something that must be dealt with by the community. Shockingly, the normal response is to have the rapist marry the woman. Otherwise, so the tradition goes, no one else will marry someone who has been raped. This means forcing women to marry rapists or end up never marrying at all.
At only 13, Ranjit’s daughter refuses to be part of this terrible system. Happily, her father Ranjit loves and backs her 100% despite the anger this causes in the village. Ranjit is subjected to murderous threats and the whole family is treated as pariahs. The village elders back up Ranjit when the rape case goes to court but are clearly inclined to support the so-called “community solution,” of having the girl marry one of her attackers.
Ultimately, the victim—the 13-year-old girl–becomes the focus of the film as her testimony in court proves to be decisive in whether she wins or loses. Pahuja’s film is an indictment of a system, which is finally changing but at great personal cost. Both To Kill a Tiger and One Fine Morning show that women can be winners but the price is high. They’re well worth your time: I recommend seeing both of them.
Listen to Marc’s reviews in audio form below:
To learn about advertising opportunities with Classical FM use the link below: