Affairs of the heart have that magical ability to crack through that wall of reason each of us erects in our minds for the purpose of making us feel all warm and fuzzy. They do this using many techniques, many of which we don’t quite see coming clearly and, thus, are caught off-guard in the moment. Generally, this produces the result of drawing us closer to those we’re watching. Their moments are genuinely more heartfelt, and even their comic misadventures charm us into believing anything can happen. However, when the artistic technique becomes more about ‘telling’ the story than it is ‘showing’ it to us, the system breaks down, and we sometimes see the end result for what it really is: a movie.
There’s an audience for 2 AUTUMNS, 3 WINTERS, but it’s most likely not the same regular people who were drawn to THE NOTEBOOK.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “Arman is 33 and ready to make a change, starting with a run in the park. When he literally bumps into Amelie – slightly cynical but nevertheless lovely – on the jogging path, he’s deadest on making a connection with her. As a bit of contrived fate brings them together, Arman’s best friend Benjamin suffers an unexpected stroke, relegating him to the hospital for weeks where he falls for his doting young physical therapist. Over the course of two autumns and three winters, Arman, Amelie, and Benjamin share the incidental moments, unexpected accidents, unconventional love stories and unforgettable memories that define who they are.”
That synopsis of the film is fairly accurate, although it really is a bit dishonest to suggest that anyone’s fate is this picture is ‘contrived.’ True, there are moments that play out far more theatrical than they do literally, but isn’t that really part and parcel of what this whole thing called ‘life’ is really about? The lives of these people understandably intersect, and it’s the magic that results from all of those collisions – even that of two joggers – that gives much of this particular story a reason for us to watch it.
But let’s not mix words: 2 AUTUMNS, 3 WINTERS is the kind of storytelling construct that’ll appeal far more to critics and art-house goers than it will the average Joe. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) The story is one involving love, the pursuit of love, and the acceptance of love (or a reasonable facsimile) by a handful of young(ish) nitwits (of sorts); and the narrative bounces back-and-forth between their various perspectives, cataloguing their personal observations of their successes and failures in what should’ve been more intriguing than what it was for me.
In short, AUTUMNS allows characters to break through that wall between the character and the audience; several short dialogues are delivered Woody-Allen-esque right to you, the viewer. A few of these are obvious – the character is set against a benign backdrop, and he (or she) is pouring out his thoughts or his heart in quirky or sublime fascination. But others? Several other attempts to convey some emotional impact are delivered actually while the character is already involved in a scene with others. For example, there’s one section late in the film wherein Arman is riding in the back seat of a car; he splits time between speaking to the people in the front versus talking directly to the audience. The problem with this? Well, the way it was shot, I was never quite certain whether he was addressing me or them, so the trickery ended up being more confusing than it was effective. This happens several times throughout the picture, and – as much as I’m sure writer/director Sebastien Betbeder thought it was a good idea – I wasn’t as convinced.
It’s a good tale that delivers whatever reward you choose to take away from it … just as Arman realizes in his final scene of the picture.
2 AUTUMNS, 3 WINTERS is produced by a whole host of French companies my version of Word will simply autocorrect into something inaccurate, so I encourage you to check them out at IMDB.com if you’re that interested. DVD distribution is being handled by Film Movement. For those of you needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a French-spoken-language release with English subtitles available. (There is no English-dubbed track.) As for the technical specifications? Was it just me or was there an alarming amount of grain throughout many of the sequences? I guess that ‘natural look’ was intended to add to the earthly appeal of the picture, but I found it a bit too much especially given the fact that so many of them were edited up against sequences that were crisp and clear. Lastly, if it’s special features you’re interested in, then prepare for the worst: there aren’t any. However, there is a short film for your enjoyment if you’re inclined. (I wasn’t.)
RECOMMENDED. At times, I was more frustrated with 2 AUTUMNS, 3 WINTERS than I probably should’ve been. This wasn’t because I didn’t like the characters or the various stories working dependently and independently with one another; rather it was due to a curiously distracting narrative technique that allowed most of these people to speak directly to me (the audience) while they were already engaged in a scene within the movie. On occasion, it became difficult to discern whether they were speaking to me or to one another. Honestly, I would rather they have spoken to one another as what they had to say to me wasn’t all that interesting.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Film Movement provided me with a DVD copy of 2 AUTUMNS, 3 WINTERS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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