Okay. It's sentimental, and it posits an absurd premise or two. But "My Afternoons With Magueritte" has an innocent charm that won me over. It also has the magical Gerard Depardieu, the 97-year-old Gisele Casadesus as the title character and the cutest bus driver I've ever seen in Annette (Sophie Guillemin), a little round girl if I ever saw one who gives witness to the fact that even over-age, over-weight men deserve love. The film opens here today.
Germain (Depardieu) is a semi-literate jack of all trades in a small French town, where he joins his peers in the tavern to drink and to flirt with Francine (the single-named Murane) the barmaid. Germain is the butt of many jokes, and some of them lead to flashbacks showing him as an unloved, rejected child, born of an episode during a Bastille Day celebration. "They were in love for about five minutes," he tells Margueritte.
Germain lives with,and talks to, his cat, except on the nights when he visits Annette, to whom he speaks quite poetically while they make love.
Margueritte, who admits to 95, joins him on a park bench where he feeds a flock of 19 pigeons, names them and takes attendance every day. She's reading Camus, reads to him and opens his eyes very wide. If not a man of great intelligence, he's a quick learner, and he soon is quoting Camus and Romain Gary to the guys at the bar. She gives him a dictionary, which completely frustrates him.
Jean Becker directs with style and grace, finding humor along the way, and injecting bits of ribald humor here and there. He also co-wrote the script with Jean-Loup Dabadie, based on a novel by Marine-Sabine Roger. It offers a good twist on maudlin tales of love among the elderly, and I found it a gem from start to finish.
My Afternoons With Margueritte opens today at the Plaza Frontenac.