Monday Morning Review

Every day is the same for Vincent, living in a small French countryside village. Every day brings the same dull, drab-looking weather, the dull bus journey to work where another day is passed trying to avoid the hazards at work and sneak in as many dangerous smoke-breaks as possible. Vincent returns home at the end of the day to be ignored, dismissed or put-upon by his family as he tries to do a little painting, his only little pleasure in life it seems (apart from smoking). One day Vincent decides he has had enough and takes off for Venice, the start of a journey of rediscovery of the simple pleasures of life.

Monday Morning is completely populated with eccentric characters – a postman who reads everyone’s mail, a priest who spies on the married ladies of the village through his telescope, a granny in a sports car. The humour is gentle and inoffensive to anyone, dry and sardonic and thoroughly charming. It’s not exactly laugh-out-loud humour – if anything it reminded me of the earlier series of Last of the Summer Wine, when the humour was more subtle and eccentric and often visual – but such a comparison may be doing the film an injustice (and my memory of early Last of the Summer Wine could be faulty). The film tries to capture the spirit of ordinary life, the little wonders of the commonplace, little personal goals and achievements and I think it succeeds wonderfully, with a great degree of charm in both the French and the Venetian scenes.

Faults? I’m sure many will find it dull and over-long and it is kind of aimless. It is not so much that the film doesn’t have any real pace or structure – the film is about a dull monotonous lifestyle and the film reflects this in its pace and structure. Vincent’s journey is the film’s journey - he travels around the world and comes back without making any major discovery about himself or the world and nothing has really changed much. Vincent's only realisation - and the film doesn’t seem to have any other point to make than this - is that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, but there is wonder and magic in everyday life if you stop and look for it. This is also true of the film, the beauty is in the everyday details - such as the moment when Vincent arrives in Venice and dips his paint-brush into a canal to start a watercolour painting. The pleasures of the film are there if you are open to them.

The picture is possibly a shade dark, but the contrast is good and even dark night-time scenes show a surprising amount of detail in the shadows. Generally it is fairly clear, if a little soft, and practically free of any marks on the print at all. On a generous dual-layer disc there are no signs of any digital artefacts or over-compression. Subtitles are fixed, but there is very little dialogue in the film. Often the subtitles don’t bother to translate minor exchanges, or even some of the funnier dialogue – but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the humour is primarily visual and speaks for itself, being more how it is being said and who is saying it, rather than what they are saying. The use of subtitles is therefore appropriate for the material, not distracting the viewer.

The sound is a straightforward Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, pretty much standard on Artificial Eye releases, and certainly in a film like this that is not dependent on audio effects, it is more than adequate.

Theatrical trailer

Director Otar Iosseliani interview (7 mins)
In a brief interview the director shares his thoughts on the characters and their motivations and smoking as a simple form of resistance and independence.

Director Otar Iosseliani filmography
Born in 1934 in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, Iosseliani has been making films since 1955 in the USSR and in France since 1982. His films have won a large number of international awards, including the Silver Bear for Best Director for Monday Morning at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival.

Producer Jacques Bidou biography
Better known in France as a film and television producer, Monday Morning is Jacques Bidou’s first acting role.

Monday Morning is a pleasant, charming and heartening film. Its wry eccentricities will fly over the head of many viewers, while for others it has the potential to become something of a cult classic. Occasionally it tries a little too hard to be odd, when the gentler humour and subtlety are already more than capable. Not a film for everyone, but a pleasure for some on a nice DVD.

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