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TOMORROW WE MOVE (Demain on déménage)(director/writer: Chantal Akerman; screenwriter: Eric De Kuyper; cinematographer: Sabine Lancelin; editor: Claire Atherton; music: Sonia Wieder-Atherton; cast: Sylvie Testud (Charlotte Wienstein), Aurore Clément (Catherine Wienstein), Jean-Pierre Marielle (Sam Popernick), Natacha Régnier (Pregnant Woman), Olivier Ythier (Husband of Pregnant Woman), Lucas Belvaux (M. Delacre), Dominique Reymond (Mme Delacre), Valérie Bauchau (La femme Lavazza), Anne Coesens (Mme Dietrich), Christian Hecq (M. Dietrich); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paulo Branco; Kimstim Collection; 2004-France/Belgium-in French with English subtitles)
“A wonderfully realized screwball domestic comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A wonderfully realized screwball domestic comedy by the celebrated Belgian-born but Paris residing filmmaker Chantal Akerman (“A Couch in New York”/”Window Shopping”). It has no sex and no songs, even though it’s setup like a bedroom farce and musical. It’s a uniquely subtle tale about being rootless and feeling always like an exile, that also weighs in on family history issues, the need for artistic seclusion, and the good and bad about permanent relationships. There’s a classical French style to this zany comedy that is winsome.

The introspective and withdrawn Charlotte (Sylvie Testud) is a writer of erotic novels who is clueless about what’s erotic and desperately tries to find eroticism in almost everything from the furniture, eavesdropping on conversations from strangers and juicing things up on the suggestion of her editor by using dirty words–of which she chooses “cunt, dick and ass.” Her sweetly nurturing but overbearing piano teacher mother Catherine (Aurore Clément), with a penchant for waxing poetic on the different smells of chicken, is recently widowed and moves in with her only child rather than live alone–even insisting that Charlotte sleeps with her to stop her insomnia. The opening scene shows mom on the street coaxing to herself the piano lifted on a crane that is stuck in midair as it’s being transported to its new home, and seems to have an orgasm as the piano is safely delivered. Mom fills the cramped duplex apartment with clutter, such as too many boxes and armchairs, and the chain-smoking intellectual daughter gets distracted by mom’s ways to the point she can’t finish the pulp novel and decides to relocate to find peace. The ditsy Charlotte shows a flood of neurotic apartment-hunters around that include a pregnant young woman (Natacha Régnier), who is more comfortable in the apartment talking with Charlotte than at home with her possessive and sexually active hubby (Olivier Ythier); the Delacres, a married couple who are not compatible but afraid to leave each other; a mother and son, as the product driven unfriendly mom (Valérie Bauchau) will only drink the Italian Lavazza coffee; and a cold couple, the Dietrichs (Anne Coesens and Christian Hecq), who bring along a yardstick to measure everything including the framed pictures. The funniest scene is reserved for when all these characters come together in the cramped apartment and try to act normal.

The sensitive Charlotte meets by accident the affable but depressed real estate agent Sam Popernick (Jean-Pierre Marielle) in a cafe, and he eagerly shows her an apartment nearby that has been fumigated. The smell brings back terrible memories to him of Poland and the gas chambers of the Holocaust, but has no affect on Charlotte but will affect her mom when she visits later. We later learn through a discovery of a diary from the mother of Catherine, that Charlotte’s Polish Jewish granny died in Auschwitz while her baby, who was Catherine, was rescued by the Americans. There’s also a hint that romance is blooming between Sam and Catherine, as they both love playing the piano.

The film doesn’t always work, as it gets bogged down in slapstick at times that becomes a matter of personal taste whether you like it or not (I thought the comedy was often flat) and that most of the characters are never fleshed out in their sketchy presentation, but it overcomes these temporary setback, for me at least, with its literate script, the heft derived from the darkly sinister underlying theme and the agreeable nature of all the performers, especially, the delightful Testud.

REVIEWED ON 11/30/2005 GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”