Mark Metcalf

“My Afternoons with Marguerite”

By - Oct 25th, 2011 03:41 pm
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My Afternoons With Margueritte is the story of a simple man, Germain Chazes. He lives in a trailer next to the house where he grew up, where his mother still lives. His mother hates and resents him and always has, yet he doesn’t leave her. He tends to his garden and sells vegetables at the market in the small French village where he lives.

Men at a cafe he visits tease him and call him a moron. He appears to be illiterate. He has a girlfriend who drives a bus. She adores him. He is very glad when she comes around, but he is busy with many things. In the afternoons he sits on a park bench with an elderly woman named Marguerite. They are both fond of the pigeons that flock to their feet for the bits of bread that they bring. They count them and name them and admire them like children. Marguerite reads to Germain. She reads Camus. She reads The Plague. It’s a love story. A deceptive, charming, predictable, non-cynical love story.

At the center of the story is Gerard Depardieu (Germain). A truly great actor brings a deep, rich humanness to the characters he plays. It’s more than personality; more than an accent; more than a haircut; more than knowing how to get the laugh, beyond technique. It helps to have good writing, but the ones we remember bring the words and the story to themselves and turn it around like Albert Pujols turning on a high fastball. It’s the ability to open yourself up to the experience of being human and then to reveal that experience to those lucky enough to be watching. Depardieu has been doing that very thing, every time out, since the first time I saw him (in Betrand Blier’s 1974 Going Places). He does it again here, giving the simple village idiot character a depth, innate wisdom, and compassion that are enviably natural.

My Afternoons With Margueritte plays through Thursday at the Landmark Downer Theatre.

Categories: Movies

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