When actress/writer Florence Vignon presented her Hometown Blue director Stephane Brize with Eric Holder's novel Mademoiselle Chambon back in 1999, Brize realized that in order to do the moving work justice and find just the right approach to incorporate thoughtful silence, he needed some time to mature both as a filmmaker and as a man.
Yet whereas more ambitious or gung-ho directors might've jumped the gun sooner, Brize stayed true to his word, waiting roughly a decade to adapt the novel alongside the woman who'd given it to him in the first place -- Florence Vignon – with whom he produced a screenplay that would garner them a Cesar Award in their native France.
Shortly thereafter, Chambon began to fascinate viewers around the globe with its universal appeal and sensuous, matter-of-fact handling of the way that romantic attraction can creep up and complicate matters by overwhelming us beyond reason, regardless of how much we try to keep our lives in control and emotions in check.
Quite contrary to the way that American romantic comedy plots offering us an unrealistic version of affairs of the heart wherein everything is wrapped up with a neat bow are recycled again and again, love isn't always convenient nor does it make much sense.
And in the case of actor Vincent Lindon's happily married father character Jean, the last thing that he was looking for in his full contented life was to find himself drawn to his son's beautiful, waif-like new schoolteacher, Veronique Chambon (Lindon's own former long-term real life love, Sandrine Kiberlain).
But what begins as a curious, tentative professional acquaintanceship as he fills in for an absentee dad on career day fielding a Q&A session on what it's like to be a builder and she consequently hires him to fix her rotted out apartment window, soon develops into a magnetic attraction that neither one is ready to admit or face... at least not directly.
An exquisite and breathtakingly real portrait of the first rush of excitement and nervousness that combines together during an unexpected crush, Brize allows everything to unfold naturally and methodically and the empathy he feels for his characters and their plight shines throughout.
An incredibly subtle and intimate work that never hits a false note unlike so many frantic, over-the-top Hollywood passion productions, Chambon consistently manages to convey multiple layers of meaning and emotion regardless of whether or not dialogue is used in the process or the would-be lovers are even sharing the same frame.
Sumptuously transferred to a high quality Blu-ray that incorporates deleted scenes cut in a way so that we see the same events from the perspective of Jean's wife, Kino's top-notch release of the Independent Spirit Award nominated title also boasts an in-depth conversation with the thoughtful, humble director that makes you realize just how in sync he was with his material.
Throughout, Chambon is delicately edited to a rhythmic pitch of perfection that augments the usage of a violin as Veronique's means of expression and a way for both characters to connect and articulate their feelings that goes beyond words.
And in a single conversation free scene in which Jean and Veronique can't bear to hold one another's gaze for more than a millisecond when listening to music, you become acutely aware of Brize's mastery for his craft in the way that he's built up so much tangible suspense that viewers nearly feel the butterflies inside his main characters' stomachs.
Fittingly given the leads' offscreen relationship that lasted roughly as long as Brize had been pouring over the novel from passive reader to adapting writer, Chambon features a luminous turn by Kiberlain (Apres Vous) and a powerfully internalized performance by Lindon following his role in 2010's topical immigration heartbreaker Welcome.
Mademoiselle Chambon is sure to seduce fans of In the Mood for Love and Lost in Translation ready to explore another contemplative romance that -- unlike familiar sounding superficial songs you know before they even begin -- refreshingly asks you collaborate with the filmmaker, thus inviting you to play along by ear (or heart) to fill Brize's silences with melodic meaning as you go.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.