Let's Talk About The Rain Review
On their seventh project together as the filmmaking team of Le goût des autres and Comme un image (Look at Me) not to mention scriptwriters on the Alan Resnais projects Smoking/No Smoking and On connait la chanson, Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri are back on familiar ground with Let’s Talk About The Rain (Parlez-moi de la pluie), a light and witty comedy of manners that addresses relevant personal and social issues, elegantly constructed around a fine ensemble cast. However, whether there just hasn’t been enough attention paid to the script this time around or whether there’s been a conscious attempt to aim for a broader popular audience, the latest Jaoui-Bacri feature falls somewhat short of the high standards expected of them.
The ensemble cast is in place here, with plentiful differences in race, character and social status to ensure a degree of conflict that brings out underlying attitudes and social conditioning of each of the characters. There does however appear to be some trimming down of the complexity of the arrangements this time around, with most of the secondary character development sidelined in favour of a focus on the three main leads who are inevitably Jean-Pierre Bacri, Agnès Jaoui and, in what might seem like an attempt to reach out to a younger popular French audience, Jamel Debbouze. There’s another significant factor to Debbouze’s casing however and that is to bring in the question of racial attitudes, particularly from a modern versus historical perspective – something that is only touched on in passing, despite the background of the director, in favour of the more predominately white, middle-class concerns of previous Jaoui-Bacri’s films. In Let’s Talk About The Rain however, these issues are again somewhat underplayed, this time in favour of rather mundane romantic complications.
As Karim however, Debbouze’s character is certainly at the lower end of the pecking order. He works as a receptionist at a small hotel in the countryside of the South of France and is undervalued and even treated with contempt by the management in a manner that could certainly be considered racist – or so we are told, since we never see actually see it. He has ambitions however to better himself, wanting to make a name for himself as a filmmaker, but since it’s hard for a young man like himself to break into the industry alone, he has teamed up with a journalist friend, Michel (Jean-Pierre Bacri). Together they plan to make a documentary on successful women, and Karim happens to know one through family connections – a local politician Agathe Villanova (Agnès Jaoui) – his mother having worked all her life as a maid for the family of the former feminist-writer-turned-politician. Michel and Karim are invited to the house to film some interviews, but the initial meetings don’t run all that smoothly on account of other underlying romantic entanglements and complications within the family.
The themes then are familiar from other Jaoui-Bacri films – the question of labels that we attach to others as well as ourselves and the difficulty of breaking out of the social conditioning that comes along with it. The wider aspects of this theme however are not explored in Let’s Talk About The Rain, which abandons any examination of real issues in favour of these romantic complications. This is handled reasonably well and quite humorously, but it’s rather bland and not quite as insightful as you might expect from a Jaoui-Bacri film. Look at Me, for example, considered generational differences, the nature of celebrity, social anxiety and body image all as part of the equation for the impact they have on romantic, social and professional relationships. In Let’s Talk About The Rain similarly there are issues of race and gender discrimination issues affecting both Karim and Agathe that go beyond social class, but ultimately these are less important in the film than the roles of being male and female, being married or divorced, having an affair or being faithful. The film is not without humour and it’s wonderfully put together with a fine eye for location and ear for musical references, but the complications that arise out of these affairs are rather dull and predictable, the situations feeling rather forced and inconsequential.
Let’s Talk About The Rain (Parlez-moi de la pluie) is released in the UK by Artificial Eye. The film is presented on a dual-layer disc, in PAL format, and is encoded for Region 2.
The video quality of the DVD transfer is excellent in terms of tone and colouration, slightly greenish on the colour timing, but otherwise fine, with good detail and stability in movement. Ultimately however this becomes irrelevant when the film’s original aspect ratio is not preserved and is inexplicably pan-and-scanned, cropped down from 2.35:1 to 1.78:1. This doesn’t appear to create a lot of problems, but a number of scenes definitely feel very cramped and the composition is thrown out completely. I’ve included sample screenshot of the film from a screener copy I have of the film in the correct ratio to show the cropping that has occurred in the main feature, but other examples can be found by viewing the trailers on the disc which are in the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
The film comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, both of which are fine, with good tone and clarity. The film is mainly dialogue driven, but natural ambience is well conveyed in the surround mix, which also gives better tone and separation to the music selections used throughout on the soundtrack.
English subtitles for the feature are presented in a clear white font and are optional.
Trailers for the film are included, the short teaser (0:44) a nice, snappy promo for the humorous tone of the film, the longer trailer (1:07) giving more of an indication of the content. In an Interview with Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri (19:53), the filmmakers talk about how they work together developing a script, preparing shooting and working with the actors. The theme and the title are covered, the title coming from a George Brassens song which Jaoui and Bacri even sing for the interviewer. Valiantly tackled in English, with a few subtitled French interjections this is the usual good, informative Artificial Eye interview.
It’s great to see Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri working together again, but Let’s Talk About The Rain feels underworked and lightweight, its purpose never clear. When the filmmakers consequently attempt then to pull off their usual trick of overturning initial impressions about characters, getting behind labels and outward impressions to the real people beneath and the common bonds that link them, they only do so by softening them, making them bland and, curiously, less principled – raising issues that challenge them, but failing to bring any of the situations to a satisfactory conclusion. The otherwise fine transfer and presentation of the film on DVD by Artificial Eye is rather ruined by a compromised aspect ratio that all-but destroys the fine compositions of the cinematography.