Modern Life (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner02/04/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this is a well made and strikingly intimate portrait of rural farming life.

What's it all about?
Photographer and filmmaker Raymond Depardon has spent 20 years documenting the French countryside and chronicling the lives of its farmers. For Modern Life (the third in his Profils Paysans series), he interviews several farming families in the mountainous Cevennes region in central-southern France.

Depardon begins every new section of the film in the same way, filming several minutes of the approach to each family's farm from his car, so that the audience gets a feel for both the surroundings and the current climate. His subjects include: elderly couple Marcel and Germaine Challaye, whose cattle business is under threat; aspiring dairy farmers Armandine and Michel Valla, a young couple who begin the film with four goats; and crotchety sheep farmers Marcel and Raymond Privat, a pair of octogenarian sheep farmers who are deeply suspicious of their nephew Alain and his city-born wife Cecille (and teenage daughter Camille), who Alain met through a personal ad.

The Good
Depardon's resolutely low-key approach plays great dividends; it's clear that he has spent many years getting these people to trust him enough to open up to him, let alone record their feelings on camera. To that end, he doesn't push them with probing questions, he just lets them talk, though this results in an unintentionally amusing sequence where one of the prickly Privat brothers gives only monosyllabic answers, punctuated by long pauses.

The Great
Throughout the film, Depardon returns to several of his subjects, sometimes after as long as a year. This leads to some heartbreaking sequences, particularly the second interview with Marcel and Germaine, where it's clear that the hardships they've experienced have taken a huge personal toll. Similarly, the Cecille vs the Privat brothers story is pure soap opera (well, straight out of Les Archers, anyway) and you're desperate to see how they're all getting on.

Worth seeing?
Modern Life is an impressively directed, emotionally engaging documentary that's well worth seeing. Recommended.

Film Trailer

Modern Life (PG)
Modern Life has been reviewed by 1 users
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Content updated: 22/07/2018 15:54

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