Epine Dans Le Coeur/The Thorn in the Heart (Version française)
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Le réalisateur innovateur Michel Gondry propulse encore sa filmographie dans un autre nouveau royaume avec son film documentaire intimiste L'Épine dans le coeur (The Thorn in the heart), un portrait attachant sur la vie de la matriarche de la famille Gondry, sa tante Suzette. Une ancienne institutrice dans la France rurale, Suzette a toujours eu une riche relation avec son fils, Jean-Yves. Michel, apparaissant comme l'intervieweur, et parfois modérateur tout au long du film, se sert de sa caméra pour explorer la richesse des antécédents familiaux parfois difficiles mais d'une manière subtile, sensible et humoristique.
Michel Gondry chronicles the life of Gondry family matriarch, his aunt Suzette Gondry, and her relationship with her son, Jean-Yves.
The Thorn in the Heart is the most highly personal film yet from a director known for making films that show quirky human connection (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Flight of the Conchords). In this documentary, Michel Gondry has taken as subject matter his stalwart aunt Suzette, who confidently describes to the camera her historic teaching career in the French countryside. Suzette Gondry's tale is intriguing, as the director follows her from town to town to revisit decrepit schoolhouses, now overgrown with vines. She reunites with ex-students, some of them Harkis, Algerian soldiers who braved their War for Independence then settled in the region where Suzette settled. (There is also an excellent extra feature, "A Brief History of the Harkis," that furthers their roles in the film.) Starting in the 1950s, Gondry chronicles, year by year through vintage Super 8 film mixed in with new interviews of his elderly aunt, what adult life was like in tiny schoolhouses, and more profoundly, what strain this rural lifestyle placed upon relationships with her sawmill-employed husband, Jean-Guy, and her son, Jean-Yves. From here, the film takes a home-movie approach. When Gondry exposes his inner familial conflicts, one feels like a spy. Jean-Yves, a righteous model-train builder whose trains demarcate regional scene splits throughout, is obviously much more private than his mother, thereby adding to the film's overall eavesdropping sensibility. That said, while the subject matter is at times awkwardly private, the film's execution employs the viewer-friendly touches we know and love from Gondry. Animations made by Valerie Pirson, also explored further in the extra feature "Stop Motion Animation by Valerie Pirson," and a cool school-kid sequence soundtracked by Charlotte Gainsbourg renegotiate the film for a wider audience. While The Thorn in the Heart is too personal to be relevant in mainstream theaters, it gracefully illustrates Gondry's love of cinematic experimentation. --Trinie Dalton
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This is not a complaint, but a heads up: This DVD is not for the North American region, so you need the right equipment to view this.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I really enjoy being able to look into a stranger's life and just learn random tidbits that would otherwise remain unknown. Being able to see the life of Suzette Gondry was very interesting. The film seemed like a personal movie that Michel made just for him and his family, but it was neat being able to watch this film and feel as if you're being welcomed into their lives--if even just a small part.
After learning about all the ups and downs of her life and watching the impact she has had on many people, I felt as if Suzette had been a part of my life.
This isn't a film that many people will love. It is very particular and nothing like Michel Gondry's other films (The Green Hornet, Be Kind Rewind, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). This is a rough grainy documentary. There isn't really much of a story, this is not a dramatic film.
From a film standpoint this is strange film. It is hard to tell which clips are current and which are from the era. Gondry applies tons of effects to current footage to make it look old. Sometimes the only way to tell what is current day is by Suzette's age. And there is a big problem with the film. A documentary should be somewhat real - tell a story with transparency and honesty. These added effects create a confusion over what is real and what is made up. And then Gondry had friends do animation and special effects for the invisible cloaks - none of this really fits in the film. And yet he keeps attention going so well, the film doesn't necessarily feel like a documentary.
The opening sequence is at a crowded family table. Suzette is telling a story and everybody at the table is adding and interrupting. Well exactly like a happy big family gathering would be. The story builds and builds until finally Suzette can't stop laughing. To the family and her, the joke is hilarious. After I watched half of the film, I sort of understood the joke. But at the outset, this was an inside joke nobody but the family would understand. The punch line comes, and the audience will never laugh. And then the story continues. Repeating itself a year later. And it falls flat again. Suzette is not a bad story teller, she is comfortable in front of the camera, not paying attention to it. But yet the stories don't go anywhere.
This is one layer - the voyeur peeping into a family's life. That opening sequence is exactly that feeling - like you are watching something you shouldn't be watching. It is too intimate, to specific to the family.
Another layer is the teacher, and as a teacher Suzette must have been amazing. She taught from 1952 to 1986 teacher, mostly in one classroom schools, with 40 to 80 students of all ages. She moved around to eight different schools (not obvious from the film - the special features had to explain that). If you are a teacher, this film will ring really true. It works well on that level.
Obliquely the director touches on the immigrants and how Suzette accepted them unconditionally. It took another special feature to really understand what happened. If you are really familiar with French history, the Algerians and Arabs in the film will make total sense. And frankly, you really have to know French history to understand this. Most Americans will miss this layer altogether.
And finally the mind of the director. He makes this film self-conscious with the camera turning to view the crew, or the sound man standing right next to Suzette. It is an attempt to sort of break the fourth wall. It works sometimes and other times it gets in the way. Again, a special feature had to explain why they had to do all this. From another special feature, I guess this film has something to do with memory and his other films. Frankly, that was a much too far stretch to ever understand. If you know all of his films intimately, you might understand the references. They flew right past me.
Even though I'm critical of the film, I still enjoyed it. There was something special there.
The DVD is packed full of special features. The SXSW interviews were long and could have used even more editing. The seven different pieces give another bit of insight into the film. The Brief History of the Harkis is probably the best feature because it explains the Algerian connection. It is almost a separate standalone film.
The film is presented in French with English subtitles. The film is not rated. All ages could watch this film, if a person can read and understand the subtitles, they are probably old enough to watch this film.