'Handmade with Love in France' ('Le Temps Suspendu'): Film Review

Courtesy of SIFF
A bittersweet look at fascinating arts that may be dying

What would haute couture be without French artisans?

You don't have to be a fashionista to take pleasure in Handmade with Love in France, Julie Georgia Bernard's tribute to the craftspeople behind runway showpieces; you need only appreciate a master's attention to detail and enjoy watching esoteric skills in action. Showcasing three such artisans whose Paris studios supply custom wares to Chanel, Dior and other famous fashion houses, Bernard not only admires their talent but worries about their viability in a marketplace that is eating up generations-old businesses. Fest auds will embrace it, but niche bookings in fashion-savvy cities should also do well.

Gerard Lognon makes pleats. That's all he does. He takes exquisite fabrics and sandwiches them between two complicated cardboard molds (one room of his workshop is devoted solely to the various molds he keeps on file for Hermes silk), heats them and then carefully peels the fabric out, creating pleats no machine could replicate. The process is entrancing.

But Lognon's "everything is handmade here" philosophy extends even to the billing, and his refusal to get a computer epitomizes the way these small enterprises differ from the vast fashion conglomerates who now own most design brands. Parisian districts that once held hundreds of purveyors of a given craft now might have only two or three, with the other businesses having folded or been bought by the conglomerates; "productivity" steamrolls tradition here, and the movie is clearly convinced that much magic is lost in the process.

Whether the end product is diminished or not, it's hard not to lament the possible death of little studios like that of Lorenzo Re, who sculpts the blocks around which hats are formed, or Bruno Legeron, whose fourth-generation business keeps hundred-year-old books of recipes for making faux feathers and flowers. These places are what romantics dream of when they hear the word Paris, and any romantic's heart will fall when Bernard takes us to the bland suburban office park housing Paraffection, the Chanel subsidiary launched to consolidate artisanal businesses under one corporate roof.

Not that the people who are filthy-rich enough to buy couture give a damn. Speaking to the vapid attendees of one fashion event, Bernard asks who made this or that piece of an extravagant ensemble. All they know, of course, is the brand on the label.

This too-short film could use more interviews with designers who respect these crafts and can give an outsider's perspective, and it would benefit from more footage of the work in progress. But while it leaves us wanting more, it makes its points quite clearly.

Production company: Realitism Films

Director-Screenwriter: Julie Georgia Bernard         

Producers: Gregory Bernard, Diane Jassem

No rating, 68 minutes

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