IMDB’s one-sentence description of Pascale Ferran’s new film is a nearly-apt one: “an American arrives in Paris, checks into a hotel, turns off his cell phone and starts his life anew.”
French filmmaker Ferran, known for her “Lady Chatterley” and “Petits arrangements entre les morts” (2010) for which she won the Caméra D’Or in Cannes, took “Birdpeople” to Cannes again this year but earned some mixed reviews there. The jury is out on whether it’s good or not. Alas, perhaps that is the fate of any film aspiring to some higher, metaphysical preoccupation without the backbone of a properly-written screenplay.
The film is divided into two parts. Gary Newman (Josh Charles) is at the center of the first one, He’s stuck in the airport-neighboring hotel in Paris, living off room service and lobby-bought cigarettes as he tries to find a way out of the world. He’s not trying to kill himself, although at several points everything points to this. Life is too much for him, his successful corporate career and a marriage that’s in shambles (his wife is played by Radha Mitchell) mere illusions–or delusions?–made all the more magnified by the anonymous surroundings of your local airport hotel.
Audrey (Anaïs Demoustier) is the maid of the film’s second part. She works at the same hotel where Gary is staying, her birdlike gaze taking in everything around her, including, for a brief moment at the end, Gary. Her curiosity for hints of the lives of those around her, especially the hotel guests, would get her in trouble eventually, one knows that. Audrey doesn’t ask too much of anyone, her dreamy personality easily distracted by looking at other people.
If you’re waiting for me to write more about what actually happens, well, you’re out of luck. Nothing to see here–save for a couple of very original moments and one of the most moving pre-divorce conversation between two married people I’ve ever seen–but flights of fancy by a filmmaker whose heart was in the right place but who failed to conjoin parts one and two.