Hollywood is all about France these days, with the monumental Cannes Film Festival taking place and attracting the movie elite. But there’s one small French film we’re surprised didn’t make it to Cannes. A standout at the Tribeca Film Festival, Bright Days Ahead is an aesthetically beautiful, heady drama/comedy about living life to the fullest, while one still can, by any means necessary.
Veteran French actress Fanny Ardant plays Caroline, a recently retired nurse who quickly becomes bored by the hustle and bustle of medical life. Happily married for 50 years, she decides to take computer courses at a local seniors’ club when she quickly falls for the handsome Julien, played by actor Laurent Lafitte, a ladies man who is half her age.
A Tribeca Film Festival submission in French with English subtitles, the heart and passion of Bright Days Ahead are not lost in translation. The Shadow League had the opportunity to discuss with the film director Marion Vernoux and the still considerably hot 65-year-old actress Fanny Ardant. “I prefer to work in terms of pleasure,” said Ardant in an almost stereotypically beautiful French accent. “I don’t like performance. I think it’s against the truth. Performance is when you wish to demonstrate that you are clever in the part. I prefer to be lost in a part. I prefer to trust the director and to try some things and if the director, Marion, is happy then good. I prefer to think like the dogs, on instinct. Sometimes there’s a beautiful sky, sometimes there’s darkness. Sometimes theirs is quickness, sometimes it is slow.”
In January 2014, Ardant won the award for Best Actress for her role in Bright Days Ahead at the 39th Annual Cesar Awards, present by the French Academy of Cinema Arts and Techniques.
“Trust is difficult to explain,” she added. “Either you have or you have not. Right away, when I met Marion, I felt very good. I loved the fact that Marion was French and open. I think that’s one of those mental elements. There’s this real need for precision to create circumstances so they actor will be comfortable and able to express the talent that they have.”
The flow and pace of Bright Days Ahead is quicker and upbeat. Director Marion Vernoux crafted the film so that most of it is about the journey to its revelation rather than the revelation itself.
“I really like movies that were, what we call, caper movies,” she explains. “Where two-thirds of the movie is spent watching the plan how they’re going to rob this bank and the last third is spent showing how they rob the bank. I think that’s the process. Directing is almost like plotting the bank robbery.”
“For me, I think the actor has to react to the way the director works,” she added. “If it were the director who was reacting then (she) would have to be reacting to every different style. I don’t know how it’s done here, but in France authors of films have a lot of authority. So, it’s the actor who reacts to the way the director works.”
A woman who cheats on her husband with a younger man, while having a kind and loving husband at home is frowned upon. But Fanny Ardent didn’t see it that way at all. In American circles Caroline would be considered a cougar.
“She loves her husband. She loves her family, she loves her children. She’s not a desperate woman who is intense to make love and have sex. She has everything and it is for that reason that she is in a light way,” says Ardant. “When she meets this younger man she doesn’t fall to her knees. She doesn’t grab him. She’s very clever. It is a great fantasy knowing that it is not a great love or anything. It’s just like that. There is some pain, but even pain belongs to life. For me, this movie gives you desire to live…”
“She knows that she can come back to him and share old things and new things. She is still in love with her husband at the end. It’s not that she lost her lover in the end, she doesn’t care afterward.”
Purely a French viewpoint, Bright Days Ahead is a tale of infidelity as sport rather than emotional necessity. Funny and light-hearted in one moment, sexy and smooth in another, Bright Days Ahead is a great offering for fans of foreign films and the American style romantic comedy as well.
The Shadow League gives it a B-