BFI London Film Festival: La Belle Époque

La Belle Époque
La Belle Époque
Directed by Nicolas Bedos
Starring Daniel Auteuil, Guillaume Canet and Doria Tillier

by Alex Plant

Nicolas Bedos’ second feature, La Belle Époque has a set up that feels reminiscent of a cross between Westworld and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. However, with its liberal dashing of sharp french humour it manages to feel entirely unique.

Cartoonist Victor (Auteil) is a man in his 60s who feels completely alienated by both contemporary society and his family’s embrace of modern technology. When this becomes a sticking point between him and his wife, Marianne (Ardant), she kicks him out. Feeling wistful, Victor decides to make use of a voucher given to him by his son for an elaborate reenactment service that allows customers to inhabit a period of history of their choosing, for as long as they can afford to pay for it. Eschewing more recognisable historical events Victor chooses to go back to a cafe in 1975 to relive the day he first met and fell in love with Marianne.

La Belle Époque is a lush and very funny rumination on the nature of romance, the passage of time and the pitfalls and pleasures of nostalgia. Bedos’ film looks absolutely fantastic, perfectly capturing the rose-tinted view we can often remember of significant events in our past. It’s anchored by excellent performances from Auteil and Ardant and a superb supporting cast. Given its excellently executed high concept it seems almost unimaginable that this won’t receive an english-language remake, but it’s uniquely French sensibilities and distinct visual flair make it well worth catching before the inevitably toned-down re-skinning appears in a few years’ time.


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