My Favorite Season (Ma Saison Preferee) (France, 1993)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Despite having taken three years to make the trip across the Atlantic, Andre Techine's My Favorite Season is surely one of the best films of the summer, if not the year. After its release in France, My Favorite Season was unable to acquire an American distributor; however, following the modest art-house success of the director's subsequent effort, Wild Reeds, the door was opened for the movie's U.S. showing. For those who enjoy rich, complex character dramas, the arrival of My Favorite Season is a cause for celebration.

My Favorite Season is about relationships and communication. It's about sacrifice and misunderstandings. And, above all, it's about the ties of family and how the passage of time constantly distorts and re-invents our relationships with those we are closest to. Techine's masterful story probes these issues, constantly digging deeper to uncover hidden motivations. In the process, a pair of multi-dimensional, completely believable personalities are created. These characters get under our skin and stay there.

My Favorite Season features international film icon Catherine Deneuve as Emilie and French star Daniel Auteuil (Jean de Florette, Un Coeur en Hiver) as her estranged brother, Antoine. The rift between these two has existed for three years, a time during which they haven't spoken. When their mother, Berthe (Marthe Villalonga), suffers a stroke, Emilie brings the older woman to her house to live. Bruno (Jean-Pierre Bouvier), Emilie's husband, resents Berthe's presence, and is even less pleased when Emilie breaks the silence with Antoine and invites him to Christmas dinner. On that night, with the snow falling outside, the tangled skein of Emilie and Antoine's relationship begins to untangle, causing Emilie to leave her husband and reach a new understanding with her brother.

When My Favorite Season begins, none of the characters are happy with themselves, their lives, their relationships, or each other. As time passes, however, and Emilie and Antoine re-discover the closeness they once shared, they uncover their lost humanity. But how deep is this new understanding, and what level of sacrifice can it survive? Techine goes to great pains to illustrate that there are no easy answers to life's most difficult questions, and that no aspect of human interaction can avoid change.

Emilie and Antoine are vastly different, and that contrast forms a dynamic that keeps their relationship interesting as it mutates. Emilie is cool, reserved, and distant. Her husband calls her an emotional cripple who's incapable of love. Antoine is selfish, outgoing, and brash. Deneuve and Auteuil capture the essences of these two perfectly.

A varied and intriguing group of supporting characters populate this film. The most important is Berthe, whose circumstances and actions impel change in Emilie and Antoine's relationship. We also meet Emilie's troublesome adopted son, Lucien (Anthony Prada), and her daughter, Anne (Chiara Mastroianni, the real-life offspring of Deneuve and actor Marcello Mastroianni), who feels unloved and neglected. These two members of the younger generation have their own stories, pieces of which we see when they intersect aspects of Techine's main narrative.

My Favorite Season is the sort of intelligent, sensitive drama that we need more of. It engages the intellect without ignoring the emotions. In the midst of this summer's glut of mind-numbing action features, it's a rare and welcome treat to find something this fresh. Regardless of the time of the year or the color of the leaves on the trees, My Favorite Season is definitely worth seeing.

My Favorite Season (Ma Saison Preferee) (France, 1993)

Run Time: 2:04
U.S. Release Date: -
MPAA Rating: "NR" (Nudity, Sexual Content, Profanity)
Genre: DRAMA
Subtitles: French with English subtitles
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1