Combustible Celluloid
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With: Vincent Lindon, Sandrine Kiberlain, Aure Atika, Jean-Marc Thibault, Arthur Le Houérou, Bruno Lochet, Abdellah Moundy, Michelle Goddet, Anne Houdy, Geneviève Mnich, Florence Hautier, Jocelyne Monier, Jean-François Malet, Maxence Lavergne, Philomène Pagnier
Written by: Stéphane Brizé, Florence Vignon, based on a novel by Eric Holder
Directed by: Stéphane Brizé
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 101
Date: 10/11/2009

Mademoiselle Chambon (2010)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

No Big Fling

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The French know a great deal about love affairs; it seems like the decision to embark upon one carries about as much weight as whether or not to get a pet. Yet this latest example of an extramarital love is presented with a surface politeness that renders it all but passionless.

Mademoiselle Chambon stars the rugged Vincent Lindon (Friday Night, La Moustache) as Jean, who works building houses. He appears to be a fairly simple guy, not particularly sophisticated, but kind. One day his sexy wife Anne-Marie (Aure Atika) hurts her back, and Jean must pick up their son Jeremy (Arthur Le Houérou) from school. He gets a glimpse of Jeremy's teacher, Véronique Chambon (Sandrine Kiberlain), in a private moment; she's miming playing a violin. He's instantly enchanted, though -- to be brutally honest -- it's hard to see what might attract him to the mousy teacher when his wife is such a voluptuous hottie.

Their friendship proceeds tentatively. Véronique invites Jean to speak about his job to the class; she then asks him about a drafty window in her apartment. He agrees to take a look at it, and learns that her job forces her to move every year or so, from school to school. He asks her to play a song for him, and she loans him some CDs. Finally we get the money shot, and it's a doozy. She puts on a song for him, and they sit together. Jean touches her face, and they wind up in a tender kiss. That's it. This is no hot-and-heavy tale of seduction.

Unfortunately, if it was going to be based on true love, Mademoiselle Chambon could have been a bit more vibrant. The director and co-writer Stéphane Brizé chooses to show several time-passing scenes of Jean and Véronique spending tortured moments apart from one another. Jean gets mad at work and breaks a saw. Véronique makes tea. Sure, this situation it not easy and it creates a lot of anxiety, but these moments don't really build to anything.

Eventually, things come together when Jean asks Véronique to play her violin at a birthday party for his aged father (Jean-Marc Thibault). Sadly, the fabric of the movie is so tentative and polite that it's fairly easy to figure out where it's all going from here. It's too bad the filmmakers couldn't have taken the majesty of that kiss, expanded on its tenderness, and built the rest of the film around it. The way it is, instead of pining, we merely wait.

Kino Lorber released a DVD and Blu-Ray for United States viewers. Extras include an interview with the director, deleted scenes, trailers, and a still gallery.

Best Buy Co, Inc.