Looking for Hortense
Directed by Pascal Bonitzer
Cornerhouse, 31 August 2013
On the face of it, a typical French film: a left-field comedy about life (and cinema too) as a series of missed moments, fluffed opportunities, outrageous negligence.
He has a good-enough life, does Damien (Jean-Pierre Bacri), an academic whose specialism is China (mind, he is rather a middling academic on the showing here and has none of Nathan Sivin’s brilliant understanding of that vast country). He’s not done enough to fulfill a promise to approach his father, a high ranking civil servant, and enlist his services in helping Hortense, a young woman of Balkan descent whose immigration status places her in danger of being deported. We see him whizzing around trying to do this, realising along the way that he knows very little about his father’s sexuality or the dynamic of his parent’s marriage. Nor is he aware that his son is being bullied at school. And he learns too late that his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) is considering an affair.
Of course, another way of looking at the film’s basic premise is to say that life (and cinema too) is a flurry of images, information and imponderables. The rational response is bewilderment and an admission of ignorance. Distraction, Damien’s habitual mode of engagement, is perfectly understandable
I enjoyed this Virilio-influenced comedy very much, not least because it has an abundance of surprising incident. However, there is no relation to the Jacques Roubaud novels.