Gérard Depardieu is epic of heft if not tragic of proportion in “My Afternoons With Margueritte,” (La tête en friche), a jeroboam of Francophile frippery, more Merlot than melodrama. Germain, an uneducated side of beef living out his days as a village handyman, meets a 95-year-old woman, Margueritte (Gisèle Casadesus), who also loves pigeons but urges her lifetime of reading onto the simple one. Germain lives across a garden from his hateful mother, to whom Margueritte (a misspelled name she attributes to her father) acts as a convenient maternal substitute. Middlebrow compassion plays out in pleasantly generic form, but even vamping, the big man doesn’t piss away his charisma: Depardieu may be one of the cinema’s most watchable galoots even when his character is trying to literally visualize passages from Camus’ “The Plague.” Veteran director Jean Becker directs with a heavy weight on the butter knife, yet the calories fall surprisingly lightly. (A public urination scene is a momentary reminder of Depardieu’s recent airborne embarrassment.) Based on Marie-Sabine Roger’s novel. With Sophie Guillemin, Claire Maurier, Jean-François Stévenin, Mélanie Bernier, François-Xavier Demaison. 88m. (Ray Pride)
“My Afternoons With Margueritte” opens Friday at Landmark Century and Landmark Renaissance.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.