Directed by: Jean-Paul Rappeneau (Bon Voyage)
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Olivier Martinez, Pierre Arditi, François Cluzet
I had only seen one movie from Jean-Paul Rappeneau when The Horseman on the Roof (1995) came my way, so I looked up my review of that film, Bon Voyage (2003), and saw that my initital response was: “an often-fascinating, always-clever film made in a style that went out of vogue about 40 years ago.” That was exactly how I felt about The Horseman on the Roof — except I was less fascinated and found the film less clever. Oh, it’s enjoyable, but it feels almost reactionary — and sometimes a little bit foolish — in its detemined old fashionedness. Part of this expensive ($35 million) film’s obvious intent was to turn Olivier Martinez into a breakthrough star on an international level — and we all know that didn’t happen and hasn’t happened yet. As a result, it tries a little too hard and puts too much on the actor’s shoulders (especially, since he’s up against Juliette Binoche). It’s still a reasonably entertaining adventure involving the two main characters trying to make their way through France in the midst of a cholera epidemic. Not only are they prey to the possibility of disease, but the very real chance of being locked up in quarantine before they can reach their goals. (She’s trying to return to her aged husband and he’s trying to transport gold into his native Italy to finance a revolution.) The adventure aspect is more convincing than their inevitable romance, and its notions of cholera are on the quaint side. But it’s certainly a handsome movie and successful enough in its own right.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Horseman on the Roof Sunday, Sept. 8, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
In Brief: The Horseman on the Roof may have been made in 1995, but it feels like a film from a much earlier era — even with its outbursts of nudity and grisly images of a cholera plague. It’s utterly romantic, but in an almost absurdly chaste manner. In fact its stars, Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez, have nothing that could be called a love scene. That may be a plus or a minus, depending on how you feel about these things. In essence, it’s an adventure yarn about two people trying to travel through cholera-ridden France — she to get to her elderly husband, he to take funds home to Italy for a revolution against the Austrian occupation. Great? By no means, but it’s good-looking and entertaining.