NELLY AND MONSIEUR ARNAUD
Review by Ed Nguyen
Michel Serrault, Emmanuelle Béart, Jean-Hugues Anglade
Director: Claude Sautet
Audio: French Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: widescreen, color
Studio: New Yorker Films
Features: Trailer, photo gallery, cast & director profiles, Easter egg!
Length: 103 minutes
Release Date: September 18, 2001
all want love, but when we find it, we pull back.
It scares us off."
noted French director Claude Sautet was in the twilight of his career when he
made two remarkable films with actress Emmanuelle Béart.
The first of those films, A Heart
in Winter, was the pensive tale of a dispassionate man incapable of
expressing his love for a beautiful violinist, played by Béart.
As the musician, Béart was quite mesmerizing and even studied the violin
for well over a year in order to play it convincingly in her on-screen
performances. The second of those
films, Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud (1995),
centered upon the relationship between a young lady and a much older man.
Again featuring Emmanuelle Béart, the film has been compared to
Krzysztof Kieslowski's earlier masterpiece Red
and even earned Claude Sautet a César Award for best direction.
Likewise, Emmanuelle Béart was nominated for two César Awards for her
roles in these films and would consequently solidify her status as one of
France's finest young actresses.
Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud, Emmanuelle Béart
portrays Nelly, an amiable young woman caught in a disintegrating marriage.
Her listless husband has not worked for a year, leaving Nelly alone in
her struggle to support them both. She
takes on various jobs throughout the city of Paris, creating layouts for a print
shop one day and toiling in a French bakery the next day.
Meanwhile, the rent on her apartment has gone unpaid for six months.
Though Nelly attempts to maintain an upbeat, gracious outlook, she is
disheartened by her husband's apathy and realizes that she can no longer
continue in this manner.
meets with her friend, Jacqueline, at a café one day for advice.
As the women sip their drinks and talk, Monsieur Arnaud (Serrault)
strolls by outside. Jacqueline
recognizes him as an old acquaintance and motions him over to join them at their
table. Nelly has also met him once
before but only in passing, without an actual exchange of words.
When Jacqueline excuses herself to settle the tab, Monsieur Arnaud and
Nelly chat pleasantly. He is
inquisitive and upon learning of her difficulties, expresses genuine concern.
As a retired judge with financial security, he offers to help her, though
she initially refuses on principle.
Nelly's marital situation eventually forces her to re-consider, and at her next
encounter with the judge, she acquiesces. The
judge uses the occasion to mention that he is also in need of a new assistant
for his autobiography, the last one having resigned out of sheer boredom.
He offers Nelly the position, if she is interested, and surprisingly, she
accepts. Soon thereafter, Nelly calls upon the judge's stately
apartment regularly, transcribing his anecdotes while he dictates
absent-mindedly. She proves to be a
brutal editor of his previous chapters as well.
Though Monsieur Arnaud is initially somewhat grievous of her blunt
dismissal of some of his favorite passages, he quickly places his confidence in
her flawless judgment. It is not
long before he finds her presence to be invaluable, and he even provides her a
key with which to come and go as she pleases.
He also trusts her to be his liaison with Granec (Anglade), the publisher
for his overdue memoirs. Granec is
an assertive, young man however, and soon after meeting the attractive Nelly, he
begins to pursue her himself.
in these early scenes from Nelly et
Monsieur Arnaud, it is easy to understand the film's frequent comparison to
Both films feature a younger woman who develops a friendship with an
older man, a retired judge. Although
their friendship is a platonic one, there is clearly an attraction between the
couple that awakens a vitality that has long been dormant in the judge's life.
Each woman, as well, is caught in her own difficult relationship, Red's
Valentine with her boyfriend and Nelly with her husband.
Consequently, the friendship with an older man provides each woman with a
welcomed source of emotional support. But,
where Red was a calm, meditative film
with an often dream-like artistry, Nelly
et Monsieur Arnaud is a vibrant, energetic film established within a more
real-world setting. It is also very
dialogue-intensive, in keeping with the conventions of the typical French drama.
as portrayed by Béart, is an adept, resourceful, yet compassionate woman.
She thinks quickly on her feet and approaches life in a similar fashion.
She is also sometimes mischievous, taking some delight in telling small
fibs merely to observe people's reactions.
She values her self-dependency, as evident in her initial refusal of the
judge's assistance, even though it could have helped her marriage.
In the end though, Nelly realizes that her marriage is simply no longer
salvageable, regardless. Instead of kicking out her useless husband, Nelly shows
compassion by offering to let him keep the apartment while she departs.
And, when she eventually accepts the judge's aid, she uses the funds not
for herself but to pay off the delinquent rent upon her apartment, thereby
allowing her husband to remain there.
her good nature, Nelly does not readily reveal her emotions.
She is not a laconic person, but even the judge remarks early on that she
rarely speaks of her personal life or feelings.
When Nelly does express herself, it is often through subtle body language
- a wayward glance, a shrug of the shoulder, a crestfallen eyelid, or a simple
nod. Most of these signs are missed
by the men in her life, save for Monsieur Arnaud.
is a telling dinner scene late in the film.
Nelly has begun dating Granec since her split with her husband.
Their dinner is a quiet one, and Nelly hasn't much to say.
Granec mentions that he has been searching for a new apartment, one that
he wants to share with Nelly. Though
she does not respond immediately, her demeanor clearly indicates her discomfort
with this prospect. Granec is slow
to recognize the signs. As he
becomes more assertive, she flatly refuses to move in with him.
Is it because Nelly values her new freedom too much?
Is she frightened by intimacy? Or,
perhaps, has she realized that she is more amorous of someone else?
The couple argue, and Nelly inevitably leaves and does not return.
To console herself, Nelly visits the judge that evening to confide in him
of her troubles, and he lends a friendly ear. It is a revealing though subtle scene, for Nelly is more
affectionate and open with the old judge than with Granec or her ex-husband.
Of her ex-husband, she even notes that after having spent five years with
him, she did not really know him.
Arnaud and Nelly too share an elegant dinner of their own elsewhere in the film.
They are dining at an expensive restaurant to celebrate the rapid
progress made on the judge's memoirs. But,
in contrast to her dinner with Granec, Nelly is talkative and is coyishly amused
by the furtive glances Monsieur Arnaud and she receive from other customers.
She clearly enjoys his company, freely joking with him, at one point
telling him, "It's gone beyond work. You're
a part of my life now."
in the film, Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud also have a quarrel.
But again, its outcome is significantly different from her quarrel with
Granec and is very revealing of the emotional need that the judge and Nelly have
developed for each other. One
afternoon, Nelly runs out on a transcribing session to visit her estranged
husband, who has been hospitalized. Belatedly,
she returns to Monsieur Arnaud's apartment, but the work session goes poorly.
Monsieur Arnaud fumes at a seeming frustration from temporary writer's
block. He snaps unjustly at Nelly.
The petty quarrel grows progressively more ridiculous in tone, an
outburst that is out of character for the normally reserved Monsieur Arnaud.
Eventually, Nelly begins to storm out his apartment in apparent disgust,
but she stops by the door. Turning
around slowly, she quietly asks if the day after tomorrow is a good time to
continue on the memoirs. The judge
nods sheepishly. He has been caught
out, for Nelly has understood that the quarrel, in actuality, had nothing to do
with the memoirs. She discerns his
discreet jealousy of her attentions towards the men of her age.
Nelly implicitly understands his inner feelings, even if Monsieur Arnaud
will never expressively admit them.
Monsieur Arnaud is able to sublimate his obvious fondness of Nelly back into
re-focusing his life. Where once he
despaired of ever organizing his life's notes, now he attacks his memoirs with
gusto. His life was formerly a
sedentary one in an apartment surrounded by the old tomes of his vast library.
Now, he is divesting himself of this "psychological burden," as
he calls it, and has finally decided to act upon a lifelong ambition - to embark
upon a worldwide tour. Nelly's
presence and his reminisces about his past have allowed the judge to embrace
life once more, to the point where he even re-establishes a friendship with his
former wife. None of this would
have come to pass were it not for Nelly's influence upon him.
Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud, director
Claude Sautet has crafted a heartfelt testimony to the true value of friendship.
Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud have given one another the strength with which
to find new meaning in their lives, the one to re-build it, and the other to
re-discover it. As the final
chapter of Sautet's distinguished filmmaking career, Nelly
et Monsieur Arnaud is not only a superb film but is also one of the finest
films from France in the past decade.
et Monsieur Arnaud
is shown in a widescreen format with cinematography that employs muted hues to
achieve a realistic color palette. Sautet
also elected not to use intricate camera positions or editing.
Rather, he presents the film in a simple manner to focus the emphasis
solely upon the performances, which are quite excellent.
source print is fairly well-preserved and shows no significant debris or wear
and tear. Skin tone and colors are
presented realistically, and while the image appears mildly soft, this was a
quality of the original photography and an artistic decision by Sautet.
All in all, a nice transfer.
et Monsieur Arnaud
is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. The
film is entirely dialogue-driven, and there is a lot of it, too, interspersed
with many quiet, contemplative scenes as well.
As such, the audio mix is perfectly fine.
The film is relatively new, so the soundtrack is free of any extraneous
noises, too. While there's nothing
here to get excited about, it's still a decent and adequate job.
official features are pretty forgettable. The
film's trailer is included but is somewhat cryptic.
There is a photo gallery of about 18 photographs.
Lastly, there is a brief bio section on the director and two main stars. That's it.
is it? Wait, there's an Easter egg
rarely consider Easter eggs when rating DVD features, because if I don't know
about them, I can't watch them! In
this case, it's easy, so I'll tell you. Just
click on the New Yorker Films icon at the bottom of the main menu.
This will open up a new hidden section in which you can see four more
trailers, a list of available New Yorker DVDs, and a rather long and detailed
history about the company itself. The
history is an interesting read, as New Yorker Films is one of only a rare
handful of companies that exclusively distributes independent films or foreign
films in North America.
for the four trailers, they are truly bizarre.
The first is an abstract series of stills of beautiful women which
dissolve or pan away until the film's title is shown - Fellini's City of Women. Ah,
Fellini, that explains it! The
second is a weird Japanese film, The Eel,
which apparently won the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Festival.
As far as I can tell, it's a love story, and somehow an eel is involved!
The mind boggles. The third
trailer is for the French film Loulou.
It has no subtitles or voice-overs, so I have no clue what it's about.
My French is beneath the rapid colloquial French used in the trailer, but
as far as I can make it, the film is a love story starring Gerald Depardieu and
Isabelle Huppert. The last trailer
is for Chunhyang, an Asian film about
an illicit affair between a young man of royal standing and a courtesan.
as far as DVD Easter eggs go, this one is pretty loopy but is still a pleasant
surprise. I would rate this hidden