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God’s Offices

Writer-helmer Claire Simon's docu roots decisively win the battle over her dramatic inclinations in "God's Offices," an initially intriguing but finally pointless assembly of interviews with women seeking advice at a family-planning center.

With:
With: Anne Alvaro, Nathalie Baye, Rachida Brakni, Michel Boujenah, Isabelle Carre, Lolita Chammah, Beatrice Dalle, Nicole Garcia, Marie Laforet, Emmanuel Mouret, Marceline Loridan Ivens.

Writer-helmer Claire Simon’s docu roots decisively win the battle over her dramatic inclinations in “God’s Offices,” an initially intriguing but finally pointless assembly of interviews with women seeking advice at a family-planning center. Based (per end credits) on real-life seshes during 2000-’07, and with a strong lineup of name actresses playing the counsellors, this two-hour so-what sitathon doesn’t remotely gell as a movie. Paying customers look to be few.

Dramatic structure has hardly been Simon’s strong suite in her previous two features (“A Foreign Body,” “On Fire”) but here it’s nonexistent. Staff at the center, largely composed of women, chat briefly in the kitchen or corridors but have precious little identity beyond their roles as objective counsellors. Sole interest lies in the interviews, with a broad range of girls and women, some of whom labor under cultural restraints about sex, pregnancy and abortion (especially those of Maghrebi origin), while others are simply confused. Nathalie Baye, Nicole Garcia and Isabelle Carre stand out among the counsellors through their sheer onscreen presence, but don’t have much to work with. Widescreen, handheld lensing within the office rooms is well-appointed but with no style.

Popular on Variety

God's Offices

France-Belgium

Production: A Shellac release (In France) of a Les Films d'Ici, Cine-@ (France)/La Parti Prod. (Belgium) production. (International sales: Films Boutique, Berlin.) Produced by Richard Copains, Philippe Carcassonne, Philippe Kaufmann. Directed by Claire Simon. Screenplay, Simon, Natalia Rodriguez, Nadege Trebal.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Philippe van Leeuw, Simon; editor, Julien Lacheray; music, Arthur Simon; art director, Raymond Sarti; costumes, Nathalie Raoul. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 20, 2008. Running time: 122 MIN.

With: With: Anne Alvaro, Nathalie Baye, Rachida Brakni, Michel Boujenah, Isabelle Carre, Lolita Chammah, Beatrice Dalle, Nicole Garcia, Marie Laforet, Emmanuel Mouret, Marceline Loridan Ivens.

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