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French Version

Cinerama : Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses (Remember the Beautiful Things)

Imagine falling in love with the most perfect soul ever, one that completes your tormented existence, a person whom you can relay on in times of sadness, hardship and happiness but you can’t remember that you have fallen in love with.

Imagine passing by that very same person without remembering that she was the one holding you in a loving embrace, smiling at your gloomy face after a dreary day’s work narrowing your whole world with a smile half hidden behind chestnut strands blowing in your face.

Many a times as I walk through our empty streets, even emptier with Ramadan’s arrival, I try to walk head up gazing at the heavens above. Who knows! I might catch a glimpse of a shooting star, an answer to an undying question or a moment’s peace linked to a beautiful memory. The problem is that I do it knowing that at any moment an out of the blue reckless driver might run me over.

Headlines: “Road Kill”, “A World Short of a Dreamer”.

Where does it all go when we die? The countless memories accumulating over the years other than the one’s we study in history, sociology and literary books scribed by men and women, whom in one-way or another affected our lives. What about the simple people living around us, the individuals who hadn’t had the chance to glimmer but rather died gently into Dylan’s ethereal night? Where do there memories go? When I am dead and long forgotten and maggots are eating through my memories while my bones are turning into sand filtering along the grains of time into an endless hourglass, will I remember my loved ones in heaven and hell or will the angel of oblivion touch my lips asking me to hold my tongue one more time? Too many questions and no answers, which according to Philippe’s story to Claire in Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses on how life’s secrets and answers are taken from us during our birth, it all might come down to a memory half remembered in a very long dream.

Directed by Zabou Breitman, the 2002 film stars Isabelle Carré, Bernard Campan, Ann Le Ny, Zabou Breitman, Thang Long and Bernard Le Coq as Professor Christian Licht, who runs the Alzheimers clinic in which Claire finds a forgotten world filled with forgetful people. Claire Poussin (Carré) is a young woman who suspects that she suffers from the same early stage Alzheimers that her mother died from. Upon her request, her sister Nathalie Poussin (Le Ny) takes her to professor Licht’s clinic.

The actors portraying the patients in the clinic displayed quite a talent and ability to capture the effects of Alzheimers on the lives of individuals by transmitting their moments of sadness, delirium and the rare moments of transitional awakenings of comprehension and joy. Isabelle Carré’s performance was outstanding for she managed to brilliantly shift Claire’s condition from a shying girl with a stutter into a progressive state of Alzheimers, in which a person’s inability to create phonetic sounds and memory inefficiency finally show. The brilliance of Brietman’s directoral work is in placing two tormented characters, a dual metaphor of love’s truest into a humanistic non-platonic relationship in the happening between Claire and Philippe.

Bernard Campan manages to draw out the audience’s sympathy to his persona, who suffers from amnesia caused by an accident that killed both his wife and son. Floating in a state of blank memory, Philippe nevertheless begins to develop feelings for the young and little Poussin, which means chicken in French. The passionate and carnal love he experiences with Claire triggers a stream of chronic nightmares that will eventually lead to his remembering what happened as Professor Lecht was hoping for by allowing both patients to live and experience love at the clinic.

On the artistic level, the film is quite a juxtaposition of lives, climates as in the summer rain love scene—omitted by the censorship—and emotions of love, hate, laughter and tears splattered in between scenes. Funny enough the film also presents us with a very sharp-witted French sense of humor like the James Bong joke and the all-time cussing grouch called Bruno portrayed by Bruno Abraham-Kremer. The film’s opening title brilliantly stands out as a simile of Alzheimers when the title names flicker in and out of the white background while Yves Montand’s Je cherche après Titine is heard playing. In a very climactic moment Claire writes down in her memory passport, “Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses”, meaning that the best way to remember anything is by remembering the beautiful things we have experienced and are experiencing in our own lifetime, like her new found love Philippe. Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses is a painful portrait of true love attained and lost in the isles of times by uncontrolled circumstances. And to tell you the truth the only two times I remember crying from a film was while watching The Passion and Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses, of course the first wasn’t out of religious vigor but more out of compassion and pain as for the latter all I can say is love at its best.

Amman,11 15 2004
Mike Derderian
The Star
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