For most of its 105-minute length, "Daddy Nostalgia," is as beautiful as a painting and about as interesting dramatically as watching paint dry.
This film by Bertrand Tavernier ("A Day in the Country," "ThClockmaker" and "Round Midnight") features the return (after a 14-year absence from the screen) of Dirk Bogarde, a consummate British actor whose eyes are as beautiful and as worried-looking as ever. And it has what seems to be a terrific subject: the reconciliation -- after years of emotional distance -- between a grown daughter (played by Jane Birkin) and her dying father (Bogarde).
Bogarde, as a retired English businessman, is living in Marseillewith his wife (Odette Laure). When Laure discovers that Bogarde is dying, she sends for Birkin, a scriptwriter living in Paris, to help her care for him. Birkin has always adored her father, but he has always put his pleasure, his career and his wife ahead of her. The movie follows them as they rediscover each other.
Tavernier teases us. Bogarde is clearly bored with his wife -- all she does is play with her rosary beads and try to keep him from enjoying an occasional scotch -- and now prefers his daughter's company. One could call the way Bogarde touches his daughter's face tender -- but it seems more than that. When she tells him how much her son (and his grandson) resembles him, he says, "I'd rather be your lover than your son."
Much of the time the two share together is spent in search of times past, hence the film's title. But except for a movingly elegiac ending, "Daddy Nostalgia" -- like most of our attempts to find our way back to the past -- proves a pointless trip.
Starring Dirk Bogarde, Jane Birkin and Odette Laure.
Directed by Bertrand Tavernier.
Released by Avenue Pictures.