Film Review: ‘2 Autumns, 3 Winters’

Three characters traverse the titular seasons in Sebastien Betbeder's playfully arty feature.

Vincent Macaigne, Maud Wyler, Bastien Bouillon, Audrey Bastien, Thomas Blanchard, Pauline Etienne.

In Sebastien Betbeder’s playfully arty “2 Autumns, 3 Winters,” three protagonists offer self-conscious riffs on their every thought and action, directly addressing the camera to describe past happenings, present happenings or what’s about to occur momentarily. Mundane actions, trite exchanges and life-altering events all undergo the same literary alchemy, creating a matter-of-fact, Woody Allen-ish sense of complicity with the viewer. Maintaining a bemused, sometimes comic distance, Betbeder traces how happenstance crystallizes into biography as his characters traverse the titular seasons, with results that will delight some and alienate others.

At age 33, Arman (Vincent Macaigne, rapidly being knighted as the new Jean-Pierre Leaud of the new New Wave), an ex-art student now working at odd jobs too “unimportant” to be dwelt upon by the director or by Armand himself, resolves to change his life, which seems to involve nothing much more than jogging in the park. There he literally runs into his future main squeeze, Melanie (Maud Wyler), though they fail to hook up again until he unwittingly rescues her from a rape attempt, getting knifed in the belly for his trouble. A subsequent near-death experience (or maybe it’s just the morphine) includes a friendly tete-a-tete with his father and a lot of fluffy white space. Amelie, moved by his unintentional heroics, comes to visit in the hospital, their relationship developing apace.

Armand is also visited by Benjamin (Bastien Bouillon), his best friend from art school. The two recount their youthful experiences in a cafe through a mix of desultory conversation, voiceover, flashbacks and excerpts from Benjamin’s — and Betbeder’s — student film. On the way back from the hospital, Benjamin experiences his own close encounter with the Grim Reaper, a stroke that leaves him fallen and unable to move, half-hidden in some bushes overnight. His casual running description of his brush with death, like Arman’s running commentary on his own stabbing, reads like an absurdist downplaying of mortality.

These constant commentaries — oncamera or off, in voiceover or direct speech, against matted-in backgrounds or else popping up unexpectedly in the middle of a scene, often switching from one mode to another or from one character to another in mid-sentence — form the essence of “2 Autumns.” Betbeder even conjures a character, Benjamin’s sister Lucie (Pauline Etienne), who communicates with her bro telepathically (with accompanying visual and audio distortion).

When Armand calls Amelie to ask her over for dinner, his invitation is a masterpiece of babbling circumlocution involving Robert Bresson’s “Four Nights of a Dreamer” and the fact that he has a fridge where he can put stuff. Indeed, Betbeder relies on Macaigne’s casually hilarious streams-of-consciousness (his description of the French version of “Survivor” is a keeper) to offset the more straightforward (and less frequent) monologues of the other two characters. Arman ultimately resigns himself to the life he had initially sought to reinvent, a particularly bittersweet turn of events in the film’s continual, quasi-ironic mediation of experience.

Betbeder and lenser Sylvain Verdet chose to shoot the film in the square Academy ratio, which, as in Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist,” evokes an earlier cinematic era. In this case, Betbeder and Verdet are channeling the Nouvelle Vague, an effect doubled by the frequent use of grainy 16mm stock. The film’s alternation of 16mm and HD also serves as a visual analogue for the distance between direct experience and its verbal recounting.

Film Review: ‘2 Autumns, 3 Winters’

Reviewed at Walter Reade Theater, New York, Feb. 21, 2014. (In "Rendez-vous With French Cinema"; 2013 Cannes Film Festival — Acid.) Running time: 87 MIN. (Original title: “2 automnes 3 hivers”)

Production: (France) A Film Movement (in U.S.) release of an Envie de Tempete production, with the support of La Region Ile-de-France, with the participation of the Centre National de la Cinematographie et de l’image Animee, Arte, with the support of La Region Auvergne and La Region Aquitaine. Produced by Frederic Dubreuil.

Crew: Directed, written by Sebastien Betbeder. Camera (color, HD, 16mm), Sylvain Verdet; editor, Julie Dupre; music, Bertrand Betsch; production designers, Anne Peyrard, Melodie Nishida; costume designer, Anne Billette; sound, Roman Dymny.

With: Vincent Macaigne, Maud Wyler, Bastien Bouillon, Audrey Bastien, Thomas Blanchard, Pauline Etienne.

More Film

  • Stuber

    ‘Stuber’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Twentieth Century Fox claims the top spot in spending with “Stuber.” Ads placed for the comedy had an estimated media value of $4.91 million through Sunday for 1,325 national ad airings on 42 networks. [...]

  • BTS - J-Hope, V, Jungkook, Jimin,

    BTS' 'Bring the Soul: The Movie' Gets Global Theatrical Release

    BTS will be back on the big screen this summer. The Korean pop group announced today that their latest feature film, “Bring the Soul: The Movie,” will have a global release on August 7. It arrives just six and a half months after the septet’s last film release, “Love Yourself in Seoul.” “Bring the Soul” [...]

  • Box Office: 'Yesterday' Movie Takes on

    Box Office: 'Annabelle Comes Home' and 'Yesterday' Take on 'Toy Story 4'

    The weekend box office has gone to the dolls. “Annabelle Comes Home,” a supernatural horror film about a possessed toy, is facing off against another band of plastic figurines: “Toy Story 4.” Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” is expected to dominate box office charts again over newcomers “Annabelle Comes Home” and “Yesterday,” a fantasy musical set [...]

  • 'The Current War' Trailer: Benedict Cumberbatch,

    Benedict Cumberbatch and Nicholas Hoult Feud in 'The Current War' Trailer (Watch)

    101 Studios has released an official new trailer for the Martin Scorcese-produced thriller, “The Current War,”  offering a glimpse into the dramatic 19th century battle over electricity that became known as the “war of the currents.” The film, which is a dramatization of real-life events, will follow the tumultuous journey of Thomas Edison, played by [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    Oscars: 31 Upcoming Films That Could Enter the Awards Race

    The year reaches the halfway mark on June 30, and traditionally films from the first six months have an uphill battle in the Oscar race. However, this year’s January-June crop might get a boost from the accelerated schedule: Nominations voting is a tight Jan. 2-Jan. 7, 2020. So if voters start their homework now, early [...]

  • Yesterday Movie Danny Boyle

    Danny Boyle on 'Yesterday,' Leaving 'Bond 25' and Why the Beatles Still Rock

    Danny Boyle would like to reintroduce you to the Beatles. The iconic foursome certainly needs no introduction, but in his movie “Yesterday,” which debuts June 28, the director envisions a word where nobody has heard of John, Paul, George and Ringo. That is, nobody besides Jack Malik. When the struggling songwriter, portrayed by newcomer Himesh [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content