Films in the Southern Highlands | Macadam Stories (Brazil)
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Macadam Stories (Brazil)

2016 Brazil

SUNDAY 28 May 10.00 am
TUESDAY 30 May 8.15 pm
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

SYNOPSIS

A building in a housing project in Paris. One broken-down elevator. Three encounters between six characters.

REVIEW BY PHILIPA HAWKER

French filmmaker Samuel Benchetrit’s Macadam Stories is a tale of a crumbling block of flats and three unlikely partnerships that it nurtures, in unlikely and offbeat ways. It’s based on Benchetrit’s childhood experiences, he says, in a milieu that’s often written about in a negative fashion; he wanted to create a more generous, low-key sense of the small details of everyday life in the projects.

Macadam Stories is about people who take a fall, Benchetrit says; each one is also about a new arrival, or the experience of being made welcome. The film interweaves characters from short story collections he has published, as well as incorporating a narrative written specially for the film.

In one story thread, Monsieur Sternkowitz, a grumpy resident of the dilapidated block of flats, takes a tumble from an exercise bike with life-changing consequences. In another, Jeanne, an out-of-work actress (played with comic verve by Isabelle Huppert) moves into the block and forges a surprising relationship with an adolescent boy who lives down the hall. And there’s a whimsical story about an American astronaut (Michael Pitt), who crash-lands on the roof and is given shelter by an elderly Arab woman.

Other elements connect the three pairs of characters. The maternal role (whether the mother is absent or present) has an important part in each narrative. And characters use cameras in very particular ways – as shields, Benchetrit says, but also as means of communicating, making connections with others.

He had written one of the roles, the grumpy Sternkowitz, for Jean-Louis Trintignant, the legendary actor with whom he has a close professional and personal relationship: Trintignant’s late daughter, Marie, was a former partner of Benchetrit and the mother of his son, Jules, who plays the adolescent boy in Macadam Stories.

It had been Trintignant’s idea to adapt this story, Benchetrit says. When it came to make the movie, however, the shoot would have been too physically demanding, and he had to find another actor. It took him a long time; it was very difficult to get the image of Trintignant out of his mind. Finally, he says, “I decided it needed someone romantic. And that’s not about good looks, it’s about something else, some other quality.” Gustave Kervern, a Belgian actor who deftly combines solidity and subtlety, was the man he chose.

Confined to a wheelchair after his fall, unable to use the apartment lift, Sternkowitz makes a desperate after-hours journey to a nearby hospital to buy something to eat from a vending machine. While he’s there, he strikes up a poignant, unpredictable relationship with a nurse (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) whom he woos by passing himself off as a photographer for Life magazine.

Source www.smh.com.au Philippa Hawker 3/3/2016 accessed 21/1016