Un Air de Famille

110 minutes

I prefer this hard-edged comedy-drama (1996) to director Cedric Klapisch's more sweet-tempered When the Cat's Away because the material is much denser, with half a dozen characters who surprise us at every turn. A family gathers for an acrimonious dinner in its own cafe; practically everyone treats everyone else badly, and despite a couple of faux-lyrical flashbacks we never really discover why. This 'Scope film won Cesars in 1997 for best screenplay, supporting actress (Catherine Frot), and supporting actor (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), and all three were fully deserved. The screenplay is adapted from a play by the couple Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri, who'd scripted the three previous Alain Resnais features, and while it isn't bad, Klapisch and the authors haven't fully turned it into a movie—in some ways Bacri and Jaoui are more impressive in this film as quirky actors.

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