The bustling Tangiers of AndrÃ© TÃ©chinÃ©‘s "Changing Times" is enough to ruffle even Catherine Deneuve â€” despite having carved out a life for herself there, with a younger Moroccan husband, an airy villa and a prominent, if not well-paying job at a local radio station, her CÃ©cile looks always on edge, as if the tenuous contentment she’s managed to find might crumble at any moment. It does, but not under the onslaught of any expected forces â€” instead, it’s because of two unanticipated visitors: her son Sami’s (Malik Zidi) alleged girlfriend Nadia (Lubna Azabal of "Paradise Now"), coming with him unannounced from Paris with her 9-year-old son; and Antoine Lavau (GÃ©rard Depardieu), a former lover who’s carried a torch for CÃ©cile for thirty years, and who proceeds with a fumbling plan to win her back.
Sami, half-Moroccan and half-French, seems to be flitting back and forth between countries without any mooring; as soon as he’s back in Tangiers he revisits his Moroccan boyfriend, who’s got no romantic illusions about their relationship but who’s still willing to restart it. Nadia is a nominal cover for Sami’s sexuality, though his mother saw through this long ago; Nadia has her own troubles, among them the fact that her conservative and very Islamic twin AÃ¯cha (Azabal) refuses to see her.
Times" has a lot on its plate â€” politics, race, sexuality, religion â€”
but all of these things are ultimately just angles at which to glimpse the city. The film could be the flipside of "CachÃ©"
â€” while in Michael Haneke‘s film once-occupied Algeria is the angry, lurking
ghost of French past, in TÃ©chinÃ©’s Tangiers the Europeans are
lost-looking, inconsequential presences facing a far worse fate than
historical resentment: irrelevance. Of course, "CachÃ©" was pointed and acidic; "Changing Times" is a mild tonal jumble with no direction in mind.
This is the seventh pairing of Deneuve and Depardieu, and the two icons
are, actually, the least interesting part of the ensemble. Of the dozen or so flitting half-narratives that surface, theirs is the only one that gets resolution, an epic romance gone clumsy and mundane and irrevocably human. Still, the two can come together as easily as a foot sliding into a comfortable shoe, particularly in their first scene together, after Antoine has made his ungainly reentrance into CÃ©cile’s life. She approaches him warily, amused but not so pleased to see him, and asks wonderfully "Still wearing Eau Sauvage?" He replies without missing a beat, "I’m a faithful type."
Opens in New York today.
+ Changing Times (IMDb)