Un Air De Famille Review

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After the zestful chic of When The Cat's Away, this three act family squabble is something of a departure for director Klapisch. Instead of the spontaneous, almost inconsequential chatter that punctuated the former, we get the spiteful sparring of siblings unable to shoulder the responsibility for their own disappointments. Gone are the freewheeling camera movements and in their place come precise placements, designed to cause their subjects the maximum discomfort and lay them bare before our gaze.

Friday night is family night for Henri (Bacri), his sister Betty (Jaoui), mother (Claire Maurier) and brother Philippe (Wladimir Yordanoff) and his prim wife Yolande (Catherine Frot). But this night is doomed. Henri's wife has left home; Philippe has botched the TV interview that should have kick-started his new career and Betty has broken up with Henri's bartender, Denis (Darroussin). As the drink flows, home truths flood out.

Adapted from Bacri and Jaoui's play, this has none of the stagey declamation that is usually the undoing of theatrical transfers. Instead, the short speeches heighten the tension between the characters, which is further exacerbated by the claustrophobic two-room set. Klapisch makes the most of sequences like Denis and Yolande's electrifying dance, but mostly contents himself with neat touches rather than grand flourishes. His use of glass - mirrors, windows or wine glasses - is masterly and recalls glossier melodramas by Douglas Sirk and Fassbinder.

The performances are uniformly excellent, with Bacri's skulking self-pity and Darroussin's pragmatic timidity holding the piece together. But it's the tipsy Frot who steals the show, whether sniping at her bullying spouse, bawling over her detested birthday presents or cottoning on to revelations a fraction before (or after) her cussing kin.