by Jef Burnham
Available on DVD from Liberation Entertainment on January 26th, 2010.
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Hello Goodbye reunites Gérard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant who also costarred in Francois Truffaut’s 1981 film, La femme d’à côté (The Woman Next Door). Similar to my lukewarm response to The Woman Next Door, I found I was never able to commit myself to the characters and the situations in Hello Goodbye. Whilst the overall storyline feels novel, the particular events and characters in the film were the predictably kooky but cold mainstays of modern independent cinema. Ultimately, I was totally impartial to the film.
The story follows a Parisian couple in their fifties, whose son gets married, triggering a midlife crisis for the wife, Gisèle (Ardant). Gisèle, obsessing over her Judaism, to which she converted when she married Alain (Depardieu), forces Alain to abandon their lives in Paris and move with her to Tel Aviv. There, they face a series of problems from unemployment to homelessness, to discrimination from the native Isrealis, to holes being punched in their luggage by bomb-detecting robots as they confusingly and repeatedly leave their luggage unattended in Israeli airports. They persist in making their new life work as every conceivable thing goes wrong; and I found I could barely discern why the characters did what they did in any given situation.
With the exception of the interesting bits about the discrimination that some native Israelis show toward Jewish immigrants, I don’t believe I learned anything about Judaism, the French or Isreal that I didn’t know going in, and I certainly didn’t learn anything about the robotic characters. Perhaps if I were French, Jewish or Israeli this would hold some relevancy, but to me the film seems to rely on the audience falling into one of those three groups in order for it to have any power. The effect is similar to that of The Squid and the Whale, which I’ve noticed occasionally fails to affect audience members who were not confronted with divorce as children. And the alienating effect is greater here. Primarily due to this lack of universality (not to mention the kitschy editing and soundtrack), I cannot recommend the film.
Still, should you determine to pick up or rent this DVD, the special features include a “making of” featurette, a photo gallery and a trailer.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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