Compelling and thoughtful, "Ma Saison Preferee" ("My Favorite Season"), which opens today at the Charles, reaches beneath the cool exteriors of a prickly family to reveal the passions and memories that seethe within.
Catherine Deneuve and Daniel Auteuil are engrossing as an estranged brother and sister who are brought together by their mother's failing health.
Mom (Marthe Villalonga) wants her grown-up children to face her inevitable death, but once the siblings are together, they have trouble extracting themselves from the past long enough to face the future.
Emilie (Deneuve) is a lawyer settled in a loveless marriage; her daughter and adopted son's hell-raising seem a natural product of her restless, directionless example.
Her brother, Antoine (Auteuil), is a neurologist, but even he won't allow himself to see his mother's illness for what it is; instead, he likes to remember her as the grump she was when he was a boy.
The siblings were lonely as children and formed a fierce attachment, but as adults, they -- especially Emilie -- were so intent upon being independent that they ended up severing ties for three years.
They and their mother often talk about what is "normal," tacitly acknowledging that they feel themselves to be anything but.
Director Andre Techine lets us feel their edgy anguish and see the perilous passage of time as they see it, through the seasons -- in rain, snow and sunlight.
Summer, of course, is their favorite, because when they were young, they knew who they were; they were sure of love.
This emotional story is a walk through the autumn chill of middle age, when it is so easy to be warmed -- and burned -- by the memories of youth.
What: 'Ma Saison Preferee' In French with English subtitles
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Daniel Auteuil
Directed by: Andre Techine
Released by: Filmopolis Pictures
Rated: Unrated (nudity, language, sexual situations)
Sun score: ***
Pub Date: 8/16/96