Changing Times Review
By Chris Cabin
A man is buried under a heap of mud and dirt within the first five minutes of Andre Techine's Changing Times. It's not quite a mudslide since it's not on any sort of angle, but it piles on a man until a group of workers have to dive into the hole to dig him out. Not surprisingly, this event punctuates the subdued surreal nature of the film.
Antoine (Gérard Depardieu) has a nice job. He oversees construction for a company who builds media centers all over the world, using his skills as an engineer and a negotiator to keep projects rolling. These skills were not used to his advantage earlier in his life when he dated Cécile (Catherine Deneuve), who now makes her living as a radio show host and a wife to Nathan (Gilbert Melki), a renowned doctor. Fate, as it tends to do, intervenes (interferes) and sends Antoine to Tangiers, where Cécile lives. At the same time, Cécile and Nathan's son Sami (Malik Zidi) and his partner Nadia (Lubna Azabal) come home for vacation time. By vacation, they actually mean for Sami to visit his secret boyfriend and for Nadia to visit her sister, Aïcha (Lubna again). The film mainly pivots on Antoine's quest to get Cécile back, which begins as gazing from afar and eventually becomes family interaction.
Tangiers provides a sweaty realism for this strange, fascinating film. The houses that people live in are often in the middle of heavily wooded areas, accentuating the privacy of rich people's lives (everything is a secret). Director André Téchiné has found a very distinct mood for this film and sustains it throughout. It has the wooziness of a stalker/obsession film, but it also comes off sweeter than that, allowing time for us to understand the strange, awkward Antoine. Depardieu's nervy performance is integral to this understanding, and the audience finds itself more on the side of the obsessive Antoine than the seemingly apathetic Cécile, though Deneuve turns her uncertainty into a poetic, fierce performance.
The subplots get a little out of hand. Connections are made in a hurry between Antoine and Sami's boyfriend and Nathan and Aïcha. And though it's done with restraint and admirable evocation, Sami and his boyfriend's story adds nothing to the overall story and comes to a rather easy conclusion that doesn't seem to be earned completely. Aicha's story also seems to be fat on a rather nice piece of meat, although she does serve a purpose as far as making Nadia's past a bit more clear and therefore making Nadia a more nuanced character. However, these are small things when you consider the bewilderingly strong pacing, mood and atmosphere that Téchiné creates in Changing Times. The outcome between Antoine and Cécile might seem unbelievable to some, but you have to admire the rigorous peculiarity that Téchiné works into what could have been a simple unrequited romance story. Without a doubt, the resonance of this film is like being pulled up from the muck of this horrendously boring summer movie season.
Aka Les Temps qui changent.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 15th December 2004
Distributed by: Koch Lorber Films
Production compaines: Agora Films, Gemini Films, France 2 Cinéma, Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC), Canal+, TPS Star, Banque Populaire Images 5, Sofica Soficinéma, Media Programme of the European Community
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 26 Rotten: 15
Cast & Crew