Ma Saison Preferee

on April 19, 1996 by Alex Albanese
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   "Ma Saison Preferee" ("My Favorite Season") opens with an unusual image: an Old Master painting of a pair of Siamese twins. Elegant, disturbing and exotic, that image holds through the opening credits. Then, with a sudden cut, a simple, matter-of-fact story begins. An elderly woman (Marthe Villalonga) closes her rural home for the last time, about to move in with her daughter's family. This striking dissonance in part references the earlier work of director Andre Techine. While the likes of "Barocco" and "Les Soeurs Bronte" have been heavily stylized, "Ma Saison Preferee" is a straightforward, deeply realistic chronicle of the complex relationships in an ordinary family as its people lurch through a difficult year.
   The story centers on Emilie (Catherine Deneuve), a reserved small-town lawyer with two teenagers; she shares a practice with her husband Bruno (Jean-Pierre Bouvier). Her cantankerous mother's growing infirmities prompt Emilie to reconcile with her estranged brother Antoine ("Un Coeur en Hiver's" Daniel Auteuil), an emotionally volatile neurosurgeon. Back in the orbit of these two strong personalities from her past, the orderly and restrained life that Emilie has made for herself begins to crumble as she realizes something within herself is profoundly amiss.
   Moving and engaging, with strong and idiosyncratic characters, "Ma Saison Preferee" brilliantly captures the vagaries of real life and the complexity of dissimilar siblings dealing with their mother's decline. Auteuil's Antoine is an interesting bundle of tics and contrasts, and Deneuve does an outstanding job as a woman deeply uncomfortable with both emotionality and her striking beauty, a woman forced to come to terms with her shortcomings, mistakes and the only person to whom she was ever close her brother. Adding another success on the level of his Oscar-nominated "The Wild Reeds," director Techine lets his tale unfold in a series of strongly juxtaposed, truthful incidents as he deftly reveals all that is elegant, disturbing and exotic in day-to-day life.    Starring Catherine Deneuve, Daniel Auteuil and Marthe Villalonga. Directed and written by Andre Techine. Produced by Alain Sarde. A Filmopolis release. Drama. French-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 124 min.
Tags: Catherine Deneuve, Daniel Auteuil, Marthe Villalonga, Andre Techine, French, foreign, family drama
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