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Delicacy (La Délicatesse) – David and Stephane Foenkino


Nathalie and Markus




 Delicacy – David and Stephane Foenkino

I’m worried about Audrey. That girl is far too thin: painfully thin. I just don’t think she’s eating properly: not looking after herself. She needs feeding up and pampering for a couple of weeks. I’d offer but I’m not sure my wife would agree.

I’m also worried about me. I’m gonna get drummed out of the critics’ club: not only does nothing much happen inDelicacy; it’s all talking; no one is seen getting killed; not a gun in sight; and the clinchers critic-wise – it’s intimate without being sexy; romantic without being passionate; charming without being arch. And I loved it.

I’ve pondered long and hard over the years why no other nation on earth appears to be able to make films about love in all its forms as well as the French. My only conclusion, provisional, to this almost paradoxical fact, is itself a paradox: the French know that love is far too serious to be taken seriously.

Nathalie (Tautou), beautiful, gamine (a bit too gamine Aud – kick the diet) is in love with François: articulate and stubbly; sexy and funny; strong yet vulnerable. The kind of guy that makes we normal blokes not so much feel at a disadvantage as give up the ghost altogether. We mere mortal men can make a stab at being sensitive and protective; we may even be able to fake a little bit of exciting non-menacing danger. But guys like François manage to be both at the same time. Effortlessly. And the ones that aren’t actually French seem in this alluring sense, to have something of Frenchness about them. Be honest: isn’t there something distinctly non-American, very European; no let’s admit it – French – about say Johnny Depp? Calm down you girls at the back please.

As for French women: well I’d better not go there. Based on a long list of favourite actresses at least, they are both terrifying and fascinating at the same time. Suffice to say that if I were in a sinking hot air balloon with Audrey, Julie Delpy and Juliette Binoche and to save ourselves one person would have to be sacrificed – I’d jump. And die happy.

Nathalie and François’s idyllic romance is tragically ended when he is mown down by a truck while out jogging (really bad for your health, all that fitness nonsense). She shuts down and buries herself and her grief in work. Her focus and commitment leads her obviously enamoured, unhappily married boss Charles, to promote her to a project leader.

Resisting all offers, especially from the boss; in a moment of uncharacteristic madness, having asked her grungy, gauche, diffident Swedish employee Markus (François Damiens underplaying superbly) to come and discuss a business issue with her, she gets up from her desk, walks over to him and kisses him long and passionately; then returns to her desk, back in boss-mode as if nothing untoward had happened. A Saga Noren moment.

I’m not sure what the Swedish, or even the French, for gobsmacked is – but that is literally what Markus is. In any language.

The sole advantage we regular guys have over the Depps and the Clooneys of this world is that we can enjoy the delicious fantasy of a beautiful woman just randomly doing what Nathalie does to Markus: they are denied the frisson of such dreams because this kind of thing actually happens to them in real life. Poor schmucks. I pity them. Don’t know what they’re missing.

If the beginning of Nathalie and Markus’s relationship is the stuff of fantasy, what follows is even more so. As the bewildered looks of disbelieving friends and colleagues demonstrate, beautiful, strong women like Nathalie onlysettle for men like Markus, leaving their instinct for passion and danger in relationships to be played out in fantasy. And yet: the lightness of touch, in the writing and the playing, of this slowly building connection begins to acquire a palpable sense of warmth and intimacy that belies the cynicism of our conventional expectations. Asked by the jealous Charles why he loves Nathalie, Markus replies “because she enables me to be the best version of me that I am capable of being.”

For me, the ending of this subtle little film is a delight: perfectly judged and fully justifying the risk in calling a filmDelicacy in the first place.

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