By Mary Schroeder (Sacramento, California)
Yesterday, we went to see the US premiere of a French movie called Gaspard at the Wedding at the Sacramento French Movie Festival. Frankly speaking, I would like my time and money back. The director is obviously talented and the music is beautiful, but I still want my time and money back.
In my opinion, the movie had two main themes. Theme No. 1: we finally emotionally detach from the family we were born into when we find someone whom we love more than our family. Theme No. 2: the pain and struggle over loss of something that you have worked for and lived in all your life, in this case, the zoo. Unfortunately, none of the themes have been developed convincingly.
Gaspard, the main character, a 25-year old man, asked a girl whom he just met to accompany him to his father’s wedding. He apparently had not been back for a long time. The two then went back to the zoo, which is owned by Gaspard’s family. It can be predicted that the two finally fell in love, which they did. However, it was just not convincing how they fell in love (connected emotionally), except for gradually intensified mutual sexual attraction. From the beginning to the end, the audience did not have a chance to get to know either of the pair more deeply, let alone the characters themselves. The movie did not provide much of a chance for us to really look into Gaspard’s or his girlfriend’s inner world. I cannot even remember what is the girl’s name at the end of the movie. It was what I called “skin-deep” romance. I doubt how Gaspard would love her more than his family, since he, together with the audience, had no chance to really connect with her as a person.
Apparently the whole family, except for Gaspard, lived on and worked for the zoo all their lives. The movie did show how they worked hard as a team to take care of the animals. When the conversations indicated that the zoo was to be closed due to financial problems, I was concerned and worried. In another word, I was interested in seeing how they went through this crisis. Unfortunately, this theme disappointed me too because again it was not developed convincingly. The only highlight of this theme was when the father gathered all the three adult children to tell them that the zoo is to be closed. He went on to say how the zoo represents a part of human culture and history, although people nowadays are concerned about the caged fate of the animals and don’t want to visit the zoo anymore.
It does stir some complicated emotions inside me to think that sadly, in this ever changing world, things are disappearing even though they are still meaningful to some people. However I was not convinced in this case, because I never saw a single visitor to the zoo in the whole movie. If the father really thinks the zoo is a part of human culture and is worthy of preserving, he should strive to let the public come, even for free. Nobody seemed to try to make that happen in the movie. The zoo is its own world. No effort to get the community involved at all. No wonder it is going to be closed.
The movie did not use this crisis to reveal more about human nature or to discuss more how we cope with and grow after loss. Everything went on smoothly and sex seemed to be the solution of our problems. The sister who had nothing except for the zoo now seems to move on since she finds a one-night stand and makes love in the trash can. The other brother gets married (finally the wedding!) to a girlfriend whom the audience hardly knows and is having good sex with her on the screen. Gaspard is on a train with the girl to nowhere and the two enjoy their private moments. The father is enticed by the gifts at the wedding. That is all. Problem solved and everybody moved on.
The movie has tons of nudity. I am not an expert in art (including performance arts such as movies). I understand that in some classic art pieces, nudity is used to help express the theme, such as Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (indicating innocence and purity) and Rodin’s the Thinker (the muscles implying intensive, deep thinking). However, in this movie, I think the excessive nudity did not help with the theme at all. They become cheap and obscene. I felt like swallowing a fly when I saw the nude father stands and swims in a fish tank unabashedly in front of his three children (one daughter, two sons). I felt the same when the grown-up brother and sister take a bath together in the tub. If the director wants to show us that the family is so dysfunctional, then he has achieved his purpose. I just don’t know what the purposes are, except for that they stimulate the senses. The nude scenes in this movie are like cheap excessive hot sauce that further ruins a mediocre dish in the first place.
Call me conservative, but I really appreciate more French movies like The Silence of the Sea. Without nudity or sexual scenes, it convincingly and movingly depicts the subtle emotions involved in romantic love in hard times. It reveals the inner world and growth of the characters. It deepens our understanding of human nature and the conflicted notions of love, hatred, loyalty, and courage. It does not provide cheap stimulants, but it reaches the hearts of the audience.