Le temps retrouvé (Time Regained)

Directed by Raoul Ruiz
Starring: Marcello Mazzarella, Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Béart, Vincent Pérez, Pascal Greggory, John Malkovich.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
August 29, 2000

Since my education was largely technical, I never had to read Marcel Proust. All I know is that it's long and French. Making a film of Time Regained, from his In Search of Lost Time series, has never been attempted before. Maybe it was never filmed for a reason.

The story is an allegedly true account of Proust's experiences during World War I. Marcello Mazzarella plays the author, who is dictating his memoirs from his deathbed. Proust was a very cerebral man, so his time was largely spent studying those around him. He is most focused on Gilberte (Emmanuelle Béart), a girl he seems to love, but is pursued by his friend Robert Saint-Loup (Pascal Greggory).

Actually, heterosexuality isn't something he excells at. He spends a good deal of time following around Baron de Charlus (John Malkovich), who is obsessed with a draft-dodging musician (Vincent Pérez). Indeed, Marcel sees all sides of Paris as the city nearly succumbs to the war.

Director Raoul Ruiz (who adapted the book with Gilles Taurand, their first collaboration) attempts a certain visual style for the film, which allows vignettes from different times and places to flow together. It is quite impressive, and would make a great film if it were possible to care about any of the characters.

The problem is that, no matter how good the film looks, or how well the actors perform, the film is inherently flawed. It only makes sense in the context of the narration, where Proust claims that he's "extra-temporal", and can "x-ray" people to know what they're about. The film itself is confusing, and fails to convey this theme, which certainly works much better in the written form.

Catherine Deneuve actually receives first billing in this film for playing Gilberte's mother in a few scenes (ironically, her daughter Chiara Mastroianni plays a woman who may have had an affair with Gilberte). Of course, she is the biggest star, and all of her entrances are events, but her part is inconsequential. The next biggest star is Malkovich, who is dubbed by Daniel Beretta for the French dialogue, since his American accent would be all too apparent to French audiences. Then, he'll laugh in his real voice, and it becomes apparent that he was also stunt casting. I have to conclude that the filmmakers resorted to these measures because they knew how weak their project really was.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Le temps retrouvé (1999)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Time Regained (2000) - English subtitles -- VHS Widescreen
Time Regained (2000) -- DVD
Time Regained, a novel by Marcel Proust (translated by Andreas Mayor, et al.) -- Paperback
Le Temps Retrouvé, a novel by Marcel Proust -- Paperback

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan