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CANNES – AN EMOTIONALLY DISTRESSED woman goes in search of her lost youth in this bittersweet French time-travel comedy, which owes more to Marty McFly than Marcel Proust. A strong local crowd-pleaser in Cannes, Camille Rewinds closed the Directors’ Fortnight and picked up a minor prize, the Prix SACD. A writer, actor and film-maker with a large fanbase in France, Noémie Lvovsky’s track record should guarantee the film solid local business and a niche Francophile following around the world. But this universal story of love and regret also feels funny and charming enough to break out to wider audiences, with the right marketing.
Lvovsky directs, co-writes and stars as Camille, a 40-year-old Parisian drowning in alcoholic anguish after splitting up from her former childhood sweetheart Eric (Samir Guesmi) after 25 happy years together. In the depths of her boozy despair, at a snowy New Year’s Eve party in 2008, she experiences a kind of fairy-tale flashback and wakes up in 1985. She is still attending school, her late mother is alive again, and she has a bright yellow portable cassette player buzzing with cheesy 1980s Europop hits.
Fate, it seems, has granted Camille a second chance. With the wisdom of hindsight, she struggles to rewrite history, resisting classmate Eric’s advances to save her adult self from future heartbreak, and forcing her mother to address some undetected health problems. But destiny is not so easily persuaded, and Camille eventually comes to learn that some life choices can be changed while others must simply be embraced.
Camille Rewinds opens with a bravura title sequence, a montage of liquor and cigarettes and assorted bric-a-brac tumbling across a dark backdrop in slow motion, followed by a surprised looking cat. Thus Camille’s life as a kind of midlife Bridget Jones is neatly encapsulated in prologue form. The visual style then settles down into fairly straight, light comedy mode: breezy and brightly lit, full of brisk comic energy, and garnished with an agreeably lurid assortment of gauche 1980s fashions and hairstyles.
Playing Camille at both 40 and 16, Lvovsky finds some inspired humour in the gap between what the audience and the characters can see, although Guesmi is more convincing in his physical transformation from middle age to gawky classroom Romeo. Devotees of French cinema will appreciate the sprinkling famous cameos, including Mathieu Almaric as a creepy teacher and François Truffaut’s long-time screen alter ego Jean-Pierre Léaud as a magical watchmaker. Denis Podalydès, one of a duo of comedy film-making brothers with a large local following, also plays a small but significant role.
Lvovsky is plainly winking at her French audience here, playing to the gallery. Camille Rewinds is full of such crowd-pleasing touches, mostly well-judged. A wry Gallic twist on Back to the Future or Peggy Sue Got Married, it is hardly the most original or challenging work, but it is effortlessly charming and emotionally engaging.
Venue: Cannes, Directors’ Fortnight screening, May 25
Production companies: F Comme, Cine@, Gaumont
Cast: Noémie Lvovsky, Samir Guesmi, Yolande Moreau, Michel Vuillermoz, Denis Podalydès, Mathieu Almaric
Director: Noémie Lvovsky
Writers: Noémie Lvovsky, Florence Seyvos, Pierre-Olivier Mattei, Maud Ameline
Cinematography: Jean-Marc Fabre
Editor: Michel Klochendler
Sales company: Gaumont
Rating TBC, 120 minutes
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