The Singer

on May 26, 2006 by Richard Mowe
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Gerard Depardieu, now 57, finds new career tricks by showing off his vocal skills as a dance hall singer in an affecting story that paints a nostalgic picture of a 20-year craft threatened by the onslaught of DJs and karaoke bars. He plays aging entertainer Alain Moreau, who wins the hearts of pensioners, middle-aged ladies and their ilk with heart-rending songs he performs at village discos, homes for the elderly and even the local frog festival. Once he leaves the "glamour" of such engagements, he returns home to his empty house, where a jukebox, a goat and a self-tanning machine are his only companions.

Enter the cool and attractive Marion (Cecile de France) as an energetic estate agent and single mother who falls in love with him, starts to change his life, and gently mocks his profession while trying to resist his charms -- but not for long.

Depardieu sings the songs himself -- no mean achievement -- which lends a touching dimension to one of his most fully-rounded performances. Equally satisfying is Cecile de France, proving more than just a foil for Depardieu with a character that could easily fall in to caricature but doesn't. Although it's not immediately obvious, the two need each other to save them from their own loneliness.

Despite excellent support, it is the remarkable Depardieu who carries the film on his ample shoulders. He certainly looks the part, with his dyed hair and crooner jacket, desperately making the rounds of balls and dinner parties in the provincial town of Clermont-Ferrand.

The film avoids the obvious traps of sentimentality, while director Giannoli (who made "Eager Bodies" and "Only the Night," both in a very different register) sensibly allows Depardieu full rein. Starring Gerard Depardieu, Cecile de France, Mathieu Amalric, Christine Citti, Patrick Pineau and Alain Chanone. Directed and written by Xavier Giannoli. Produced by Luc Besson. No distributor set. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 112 min

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