The West

Fantasy injects life into real-time issues
Fantasy injects life into real-time issues

Camille Rewinds (M)
Noemie Lvovsky, Samir Guesmi, Denis Podalydes
3 stars
You’ll like this if you liked Peggy Sue Got Married, Back to the Future, Freaky Friday, Never Been Kissed, 13 Going on 30, 17 Again.

Hollywood has been remaking French movies for decades so we can forgive the French for ripping off their American cousins with Camille Rewinds, a redo of Francis Ford Coppola's well-regarded 1986 time-travel romance Peggy Sue Got Married.

Writer, director and star Noemie Lvovsky doesn't actually acknowledge the transatlantic lineage of Camille Rewinds, probably because there's such a proliferation of movies in which characters are given a second chance at happiness by being sent back in time to their formative years. The idea has been used so many times that accusing it of unoriginality is beside the point.

If originality is not an issue then the measure of the quality of Camille Rewinds is how effectively it exploits its premise, which it does better than most of the time-travel fantasies listed, simply because it is more interested in real-world issues and emotions than time-travel trickery.

When the film opens the 40-ish small-time actress Camille (played by the vivacious Lvovsky) is working in a cruddy horror film in which she has her throat cut and her blood sent into the air with an oil strike-like gush (it's a nice touch of Almodovar-style behind-the- scenes movie-making madness).

At home Camille is dealing with the real-life horror of a divorce, with her childhood sweetheart and husband of 25 years, Eric (Samir Guesmi), anxious to move on and sell their apartment.

Plunged into boozy despair, Camille attends a party on New Year's Eve where she drinks some more and dances away the night to hit songs of her youth such as Walking on Sunshine and Venus, and wakes up in 1985, still living at home with her parents and back in high school.

Camille quickly readjusts to her new life because it has given her a chance to reunite with her mother, who died when she was a teenager, and once again relive her wild and crazy teenage years with her girlfriends. (Camille is also played by Lvovsky and the age disparity with those around her is the source of much of the movie's fun.)

Camille's exhilaration at being young once again subsides when the younger version of her estranged husband Eric (Guesmi again but with a very bad hairstyle and a dopey teenage-boy look on his face) starts hitting on her.

The spark between them is still there but Camille is so determined not to go through the pain of a divorce a quarter of a century later that she does everything in her power to avoid him, which becomes something of a problem when they are cast in school production of Romeo and Juliet.

It's shamelessly familiar but somehow Lvovsky, who lights up the screen with her full-wattage smile and expressiveness, takes us deep into her twin dilemmas - how to make everyone see that her mother has an illness and needs to be treated even though the medical scans show up nothing; and how to avoid falling in love with Eric.

Where Lvovsky is original is in having her character fall in love with her science teacher, a balding, bespectacled nerd played by the wonderful Denis Podalydes, who is the exact opposite of the strutting, mullet-sporting cock of the walk Eric. She comes on to him as a 40-year-old woman but what he sees is a gorgeous underage girl who has the potential to ruin his life and send him to jail.

Another nice touch is the actor playing an eccentric old watchmaker whose magic was responsible for sending Camille tumbling back into her past is none other than Jean-Pierre Leaud, the enduring symbol of the Nouvelle Vague.

Leaud, as lovers of French cinema well know, was the boy Francois Truffaut discovered in the late 1950s and cast in his ground- breaking masterpiece The 400 Blows, then filmed him again and again through the 1960s and 70s in what came to be known as the Antoine Doinel series of romantic comedies.

These scenes with the 68-year-old actor in Camille Rewinds have a great poignancy because for those of us who watched Leaud grow up on the screen, he will be forever young, a symbol of that explosion of inventiveness and vitality that changed movie history.

Our faces may sag, our bodies decay and our souls shrivel but the teenager will always be inside us, and, vice versa, if you look closely at the unlined cheeks of the young you will trace their destiny.

The West Australian

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