French California

TV" movie is written all over "French California," vet scripter Jacques Fieschi's helming foray, which takes a largely splendid cast and wastes it on sub-Tennessee Williams material. (Story is based on a lesser Georges Simenon novel.) Pseudo-mystery about a neurotic wealthy woman and her entourage on the French Riviera fails to create tension, while uneven conception can't bridge gaps in characterization.

With:
With: Nathalie Baye, Roschdy Zem, Ludivine Sagnier, Mylene Demongeot, Radivoje Bukvic, Xavier de Guillebon, Carole Ducey, Antoine Bibiloni, Radha Valli.

TV” movie is written all over “French California,” vet scripter Jacques Fieschi’s helming foray, which takes a largely splendid cast and wastes it on sub-Tennessee Williams material. (Story is based on a lesser Georges Simenon novel.) Pseudo-mystery about a neurotic wealthy woman and her entourage on the French Riviera fails to create tension, while uneven conception can’t bridge gaps in characterization. Even Stateside French fests will pass on this Cannes-set Cannes-not.

Middle-aged Maguy (Nathalie Baye) supports a motley assortment of hangers-on in her villa, bored and changeable but fearful of being alone. Serb refugee Mirko (Roschdy Zem, speaking a more than credible Serbian) fulfills her sexual needs, glad for a superficial stability that allows him an illusion of power, if not independence. When Maguy’s estranged daughter Helene (Ludivine Sagnier) turns up and starts an affair with Mirko’s best friend Stefan (Radivoje Bukvic), Mirko plants a stolen ring in Stefan’s stuff, preferring to destroy the menage himself. Pedestrian direction is coupled with uneven editing, while the art department makes Maguy’s villa look like showrooms in a cheap furniture store. Frequent Fieschi collaborator Nicole Garcia is credited as tech advisor.

French California

France

Production: A Mars Distribution release (in France) of a Rectangle Prods., Thelma Films, StudioCanal, France 3 Cinema production, with the participation of Canal Plus and Cinecinema in association with Sofica Unietoile 3. (International sales: StudioCanal, Paris.) Produced by Christine Gozlan, Edouard Weil. Directed, written by Jacques Fieschi, based on the novel "Chemin sans issue" (Blind Alley) by Georges Simenon.

Crew: Camera (color, Panavision), Jerome Almeras; editor, Luc Barnier; music, Mino Cinelu; production designer, Alain Tchillinguirian; costume designer, Catherine Bouchard. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 25, 2006. Original title: La Californie. French, Serbian dialogue. Running time: 110 MIN.

With: With: Nathalie Baye, Roschdy Zem, Ludivine Sagnier, Mylene Demongeot, Radivoje Bukvic, Xavier de Guillebon, Carole Ducey, Antoine Bibiloni, Radha Valli.

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