Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Grocer's Son

We got an invite out of the blue the other day to go and see The Grocer's Son (Le Fils de l'épicier), a film that was listed in the Film Festival catalogue as something of a comedy. Well, it is, in a loose sort of way, as long as you can accept comedies with a heart attack, a near-suicide, a relationship that may not get off the ground, a husband whose wife has left him a couple of years ago but he hasn't dared to tell his family yet, lots of old people who take themselves pretty seriously, and a hero who is rude and unwilling to care about people.
Some of these things are overcome in the course of the film: the youngish man (he's thirty) begins to learn some compassion, and really does begin to communicate with his girl (though whether that will help is another question), the irascible father softens somewhat, the brother survives the suicide attempt. But lots of other things aren't resolved: the old people will get older and die, and who will be the customers for the grocer then? The charm of the countryside obviously has an effect on those who come there, but those who already live there aren't necessarily keen to stay.
It's a film with comedy elements - which mostly arise out of the characters. But there's no push towards comedy: the acting style throughout is so natural and low key that if you didn't know better you'd take these actors as being who they're portraying. And there are only a few scenes of real uplift: as when the couple paint the father's grocery van for instance. The lovemaking that follows only brings further hurt rather than further happiness. The scene in the morning over the breakfast table is a wondrous piece of cinema, with two characters circling each other, avoiding touching, the man wondering what it is that he's done wrong, the woman unable or unwilling to tell him.
I enjoyed this movie, found it a little slow, a little repetitive (there are a lot of scenes of groceries being sold from the van), but overall a film that sticks in the mind. Generally speaking, that's probably all you want.

While we're on things foreign, a piece of trivia has crossed my path: Machu Picchu is Peru's stunning lost city of the Incas. Apparently, f you're physically fit (and ambitious, according to one of the travel websites), you might choose the longest and most challenging way to get to Machu Picchu, which is by walking along famous the Inca Trail. This 28-mile hike takes you past villages, forests, valleys, and mountains, and is an excellent way to taste the flavor of the local culture. The Inca Trail hike takes about four days for most travelers.
Four days! Crikey!
If you'd rather not go by foot, consider taking the train. The train departs from the nearby town of Cuzco and takes about four hours (four hours to go 28 miles!). The bus offers another alternative, but without the same degree of breathtaking scenery as the train (we don't discover how long the bus takes). Finally, helicopter rides are available for privileged visitors who don't have the luxury of time. (Or who are not interested in the scenery!)
Machu Picchu travel sounds like something of a challenge all round....
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