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Blogging from San Sebastian September 17-25, 2021

Coverage Recap of 61st edition. Photo gallery 2013 Recap of 63rd edition, video I Recap of 64th edition, video I Recap of 65th edition, video / Recap of 66th edition https://youtu.be/QaoU9ZXi4Rg /Recap of 68th edition, video https://youtu.be/fktYpcd5wMc


 


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Making Plans for Léna at San Sebastian 2009

“That movie was absolutely French.”

The man next to me couldn't have been more right: at the end of Making Plans for Léna, I could feel the collective “what the...” that tends to pass through people's heads at the end of a particularly “French” movie.

But what makes a movie seem French? It's not the language or even the location: there are hundreds of movies that were set in France, made in France, in French with French actors and French directors that don't create that sort of “huh?” throughout the audience as the final credits roll. I've gotten used to it and grown to love it, but I'm still not used to the ending creeping up on me, just when I least expected it.

Making Plans for Léna has several attributes that make it different from a lot of movies that I've seen so far this festival, and, for that matter, that I've seen ever. For one, the main character, Léna, is meant to be disliked by the audience—in this, the director (Christophe Honoré) and actress (Chiara Mastroianni) succeed. Making Plans for Léna follows a recent divorcée with two children as she tries to figure her life and herself out: her family tries to help her, but she only refuses, intent on remaining as she is, that is to say, still a child herself.

At the recent press conference after the screening of the film, the idea of custody battles and what is “right” came up: in our society, it is seen as great if a man gets custody of his children, but it is seen as awful if a woman gives them up, even if she is incapable of caring for them. This film appeals to this prejudice in its audience members: even though we have seen how irresponsible and childish this woman is—she forgets her children, throws temper tantrums, cries at the drop of a hat, quits her job, changes plans at the last minute—we still do not want her to give up her children to the perfectly respectable man who used to be her husband. The director plays with our emotions and our preconceptions, and I do adore when I'm being tricked by a director and I don't notice it.

This is not a film that was made to make you feel good: there is no redeeming ending, no main character overcoming her hardships. Truly, this film feels like a slice of a particularly difficult life: I did not feel sorry for Léna while watching the movie—I feel as though she's brought most of her troubles upon herself. But the redeeming qualities of her two siblings who seem to make their own lives work, her children, the people who love her surrounding her although she rejects it, makes it a beautiful film, if one that will stump certain audiences not used to this form of cinema.

 

- Emily Monaco

Fifth Row, Left Side

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About SanSebastian

Barreda de Biurrun Inés

Blogging from the 69th San Sebastian Film Festival
Reporting by Inés Barreda de Biurrun and Bruno Chatelin.

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