Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon

It's odd the way various movies come to mind. Yesterday, I heard a report on the death of Canadian jazz/blues guitarist Jeff Healy. He wasn't that commercially successful here in the States; you might remember him for his one hit "Angel Eyes". When I mentioned his passing on another forum I frequent, somebody who knows my love of classic movies said he was surprised I didn't mention Healy's brief appearance performing behind Patrick Swayze in Road House. (Well, it is an easy enough movie to forget.) This reminded me not of Swayze's famous turn in Dirty Dancing, but of his as-forgettable-as-Road-House movie Sommersby. And Sommersby reminded me of the original, The Return of Martin Guerre (Original French title: Le Retour de Martin Guerre).

The Return of Martin Guerre stars GĂ©rard Depardieu in the title role, that of a 16th century Frenchman returning home from several years of military service. Everybody welcomes him, of course, despite the fact that those years of service have changed him quite a bit. Then, however, another ex-serviceman comes along, claiming that this man is in fact not Martin Guerre. Is Depardieu really Martin Guerre, or isn't he? And if he isn't, what are the locals to make of all the good works he did while he was putatively Martin Guerre? And what of Martin Guerre's wife, who loved this man? If she loved this man thinking he was Martin Guerre, can she still love him for who he's been since entering her life, despite his not being Martin Guerre?

Being a foreign film, The Return of Martin Guerre has a rather different feel from Hollywood movies, so you should expect something with a rather deliberate and thoughtful pace. I first saw this movie many years ago when I was in college, on the local PBS channel, and remembered being very impressed by it. Fortunately, it is available on DVD, although, being a foreign import, carries a high price according to Amazon. It is, however, available on Netflix.

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