★★★☆☆There's a quiet movement happening among young French cinephiles in 2013. Films such as Justine Triet's La Bataille de Solférino and Antonin Peretjatko's La Fille du 14 Julliet come from a new generation of filmmakers, often working like repertory companies with their friends, making dynamic, fresh works that actively engage with the struggles of contemporary France. Multi-hyphenate Vincent Macaigne, serving almost as an unofficial figurehead for the group, stars in Sébastian Betbeder's 2 Autumns, 3 Winters (2013), a sprightly, cineliterate comedy announcing itself as the movement's Annie Hall.
2 Autumns, 3 Winters is structured into multiple short chapters mixing explanatory soliloquies with more straightforward dramatic scenes that play almost like vignettes. The aforementioned Macaigne plays Arman, a 33-year-old art school graduate who, deciding he needs a change in his life, starts jogging in a local park. One Saturday he meets Amélie (Maud Wyler) and quickly becomes obsessed with her. Consequently, events inevitably conspire to bring them together. Meanwhile, his best friend Benjamin has a stroke completely out of the blue, bringing their mortality into sharp focus. What follows is a breezy canter through the lives and loves of Arman and Benjamin over - of course - the title's two autumns and three winters.
One of the great pleasures of 2 Autumns, 3 Winters is the palpable love of cinema on display. While the references come thick and fast, it’s not empty posing; even when a sequence from Alain Tanner's The Salamander is shown, it's done with such unassuming laissez-faire that it's obviously just second nature to Betbeder and his cast. The picture is concerned with people who have absorbed so much cinema that it's become a part of them. These are lives consumed by popular culture; a generation who see things through the prism of the arts and unconsciously use them as means to an end. In one terrific sequence, we even get the history of new wave and post-punk told through a young man's failed suicide attempts.
Macaigne is immediately likeable, and he carries the frequently rambling monologues well. Whether waxing lyrical about the hitherto unknown healing properties of TV box sets or simply discussing his college days, he's an engaging and humorous raconteur. The film's more serious sections expose its everyday soap opera concerns, making it feel ultimately rather inconsequential. The scenes can often feel like riffs on a theme, which is fine when they're funny, but less so when they aim for a dramatic plain they can't quite reach. 2 Autumns, 3 Winters is a fine display of young French talent. Just don't call it a new wave - yet.
The 57th BFI London Film Festival takes place from 9-20 October, 2013. For more of our LFF 2013 coverage, simply follow this link.