Un Coeur en Hiver (1992)

Directed by Claude Sautet
Written by Claude Sautet & Jacques Fieschi

As a young man I was never very musical, nor did I strive for the arts very much at all. I was more of the athletic jock type to be honest, spending my time rough housing with my brothers and friends outside, playing ball down at the field and what not. Sports were my passion, and in many ways still are, but I have luckily expanded my horizons. I now love things like music and movies nearly as much as baseball. The passion is there for sure, but I am not wholeheartedly sure the talent is. I own a guitar that I strum from time to time, not that much of the noise I produce could be construed as music, but I take pride in it because it means something to me. It is a release, and while it may not be professional, or sound great, it gives me the opportunity to express myself, even if only to my own ears, and there is something to be said for that.

This French film is all about passion; passion for music, and passion for love. Camille (Emmanuelle Beart) is a promising young violinist who has struck the eye and heart of Maxime (Andre Dussollier) as she progresses her career, aided by the affection of Maxime, who runs a repair shop for many of the major classical artists in France. Maxime is very successful, and much of this success has to do with his business partner of many years, Stephane (Daniel Auteuil), who has the steady hands to repair any violin, the ears to find the imperfections, and the heart only for music. When introduced to the lovely Camille, she takes to him quite readily. However, her passion for him is met with the cold heart of indifference. In short conversations with his close friend Helene, Stephane gives us a chance to see a hint of love in his heart for Camille, but it soon disapates back into the void.

The French have always had a reputation for being so romantic, so it is no surpise to see them nail the romance in this film, even if it comes with a cold-hearted wrinkle. The strongest aspects of the film are the chemistry between the three main characters, and the bits of conversation that accent their emotions, passions, and natural urges. First, I think, it all really starts with the friendship between Maxime and Stephane, for without it, none of the film is even possible. Theirs is unique in that it is a business partnership. Maxime cares deeply for Stephane, and relies quite heavily on him, though they both financially benefit from the others’ skills. Maxime seems almost supportive of Camille’s obsession with Stephane, despite being her lover himself. I deem this a weakness of the film, in that it is somewhat unbelievable, but it also is somehow a strength, a proof of affection from Maxime to Stephane, even when Stephane suggests all along it was never a friendship, but merely a partnership.

The cold heart of Stephane knows no bounds, but we get hints of warm-blooded passion from his character as well. There are hints of affection for Camille, for sure, and especially for his dear friend Helene, in whom he confides so often. My heart broke for someone like Helene, who it would appear has had a long time love affair with Stephane, but without the reciprocation. She does okay for herself, but the ideal of true love seems broken in her relationship with Stephane. I could also be reading too much into it. Stephane is a caring teacher for his apprentice Brice as well, but that would only make sense since it is so closely related to his one true love and passion: music. He shows great tenderness and love in his work, but sadly in none of his human relationships. An affliction that seems insurmountable, even after a brief glimpse of the true love that exists between his own parents.

The film is full of great, small moments between charatcers. They don’t always really work, but when they do it seems insirpred brilliance from the filmmakers and actors. Beart, Auteuil and Dussollier are all fantastic in the three most central and important roles, creating great chemistry that is very natural and also central to the narrative being able to work, and flow, and seemlessly as it does. Like a good piece of classical music, the film evokes a sense of romance along with longing and heartbreak. But perhaps most importantly, it captures passion, and the human connection to passion and expression. There is love within Stephane, it is just a matter of tapping into it, and taking what of it he is willing to give, which unfortunately is not nearly enough for most. But he does manage to incite the great passion of those around him, so he should perhaps be commended for such an underrated trait.

*** – Very Good

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