“Guermantes”, the spirit of the troop

Guermantes *

by Christophe Honoré

French film, 2:19 a.m.

March 2020. The county of Guermantes, the play that Christophe Honoré is to stage at the Comédie-Française is interrupted in full rehearsal by the first confinement. In July, the actors and the director meet at the Théâtre Marigny for ten days, and in a dialogue that the venerable institution has had for a few years with the cinema, decide to turn this stillborn adventure into a film.

→ CRITICAL. Theater: Proust takes up residence at the Comédie-Française

We find the troop there, in its own role, repeating the spectacle adapted from Marcel Proust when the announcement of its cancellation falls. Should we continue to rehearse, even though the play would have little chance of being repeated in the fall? The actors are divided, but faced with the distress of the director, they decide to give him three additional days to complete the work started.

A tribute to the spirit of the troop and its creative freedom

They then decide to invest the premises. They rehearse, sleep there, quarrel or make confidences and improvise a joyful dinner in the alleys of the Champs-Élysées adjacent to the theater. In the very place where the narrator of The research walked with his grandmother before her fatal attack and where the vespasiennes were used as a place of forbidden meetings for Baron de Charlus. Christophe Honoré thus skillfully weaves connections and back and forth between Proust’s work and the daily life of actors at work, between theater and cinema, reality and fiction. Excerpts from the play that should have been performed mingle with the fictional story of this enchanted parenthesis.

There is obviously the pleasure of finding on the screen, once is not custom, the wonderful actors of the French including Stéphane Varupenne, Sébastien Pouderoux, Elsa Lepoivre, Dominique Blanc, Laurent Lafitte or Serge Bagdassarian. Unfortunately, what begins in a jubilant fashion, a tribute to the spirit of the troupe, to its creative freedom and its sense of improvisation, then gets lost on other paths and loses sight of its subject.

We then leave the Proustian shores to drift towards an exploration of desire and the attraction of bodies, which will not surprise on the part of Christophe Honoré, but stretches in length and ends up boring. Between the two, a conversation in a café between the director and a resuscitator telling the reality of the epidemic in hospitals falls like a hair on the soup … It is a shame as the promise of this bridge erected between theater and cinema appeared a priori attractive.


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