15 January 2011

Père et fils, a comedy with Philippe Noiret

The title Père et fils is ambiguous in French. It can mean "father and son," or "father and sons." Un fils (singular) or des fils (plural). In the case of this film title, it's the second meaning. There is one father, Léo, who is played by the late great French actor Philippe Noiret, and there are three sons, including one played by Charles Berling.

Berling's character and one of the other two sons are not on speaking terms. They had a falling-out years ago, and Noiret as their father, Léo, is trying to get them back together as he approaches old age. He invites them both to a birthday dinner, but doesn't tell either that the other is invited. When they both show up, it gets tense.

A few days later, Léo suffers a malaise — he collapses on the stairs in his apartment building one day. He winds up in the hospital, where his brother is his doctor. The doctor-brother declares that Léo in in fine health. But Léo decides to tell his three sons that he doesn't have long to live. He asks the three of them to take a trip to Quebec with him to see the whales there. He had seen the whales in a documentary on TV while he was hospitalized.

Here Philippe Noiret talks about the genesis of the film
Père et fils, its theme, and a little about what it was like
to act in it. It's a pleasure to listen to his French.

No matter that it isn't whale-viewing season, which one of his sons helpfully points out. He just wants to spend time with his three sons. The adventures of these four Frenchmen in Canada are the substance of the movie. And of course Léo's more or less clumsy attempts to reconcile the two feuding sons. In addition, the four of them somehow meet a French Canadian woman who is a kind of faith-healer, and they spend time with her and her daughter at a house far out in the Quebec countryside. Toward the end of the film, look for the great scene with the whale...

I think this is a very funny movie and the language-listening is great. Phillipe Noiret (1930-2006) was, and Charles Berling still is, among the very best of French film actors. Noiret acted in more than 100 films from the late 1940s until his death, including L'Horloger de Saint-Paul (1974), Coup de torchon (1981), Les Ripoux (1984), J'embrasse pas (1991)... to name just a very few. And Berling, who is in his early 50s, is still going strong, after appearing in at least 50 films, including Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud (1995),
Ridicule (1996), and Ceux qui m'aiment prendront le train (1998).

The director of Père et fils (2003) is Michel Boujenah, who is a successful comic actor as well — in Trois Hommes et un couffin (1985), for example.


  1. I notice that Urrr! is the same in most tongues around the earth. Is Ummmm the same in French as well?

  2. I'll have to look for this film at our local video store - Netflix doesn;t seem to have it.

    Recent French films I've seen are "Moliere" with Romain Duris, a wonderful film, and "Mon Meilleur Ami."

  3. I could listen to him read the phone book! Not that I understood all of it but I got at least half of it.

    Too bad netflix doesn't have the movie.


  4. I'll have to check Netflix for this.

  5. I'm excited that you've done these posts on French cinema, because I feel like I know of one good list of French movies, and don't know where to begin to find others. These are great leads :) I bet that we U.S. folks could find them on Canada's Amazon, so I may be looking :) I haven't had time to watch the clips yet (been busy on things for the new house, and work), but may this weekend.
    Thanks, Ken!

  6. Phillipe Noiret is one of my favorites. I'll have to track down this movie.

  7. Another memorable 2003 film set in Québec is the comedy, "La Grande Séduction" or "Seducing Dr. Lewis". The film was the winner of the 2004 Sundance Film Festival's "Audience Award".
    C'est vraiment tordant!


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