The Almond Trees: the rules of the game according to Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi [critique]

The filmmaker plunges back into her years of training under the guidance of Patrice Chéreau in the 80s and signs a vibrant portrait of what constitutes the essence of an actor. With, in her role, an incandescent Nadia Tereszkiewicz.

Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi tackles the Himalayas with her fifth feature film for the big screen. Telling about the School of Almond Trees run in the 80s by Patrice Chéreau within the theater of the same name of which he was also the director. A school as rich in admirers as in slayers which has profoundly marked the history of French theatre. A school of which she was also and above all one of the students alongside in particular Vincent Perez, Eva Ionesco, Agnès Jaoui, Marianne Denicourt and so many others who had walked the steps of Cannes in 1987 with Hotel de France, presented in Un Certain Regard. How to seize a subject so intimate for her while inscribing it in an era (the AIDS years and the carnage that it will cause in this generation of artists) and by drawing a portrait of the roots and the engine of this job as an actor, as Chéreau thought?

Valeria Bruni – Tedeschi takes up this triple challenge with superb. Precisely because she has kept within her what constituted the matrix of this teaching: a total commitment, an intense intensity that can fascinate as much as stifle, a border more than blurred between what we are, what we live and what we play. The tone of her film marries that of Chéreau’s rehearsals and shows of that time, often rhyming with a certain violence and freaking out that the filmmaker does not shove under the rug just as she does not hide the games of seduction (and more if affinities) between teachers and students or how drugs circulated freely between them. So many symbolic scenes of this world before that we would associate more today with the notion of influence and its excesses. Bruni-Tedeschi therefore does not paint rosy, in the name of queenly nostalgia, on those years that were anything but lukewarm and as rich in sublime spectacles as in the corpses of young people who fell in the face of these excesses.

As usual, this film talks about her, without an ounce of complacency, through the backbone of the story inspired by her own love story with another student, devoured by his demons. But what turns out to be the most fascinating in this teeming puzzle where we shout, we cry, we kiss, we hate and we adore each other, always pushing the sliders to the bottom, is without context the reflection on the way to be an actor, to live this job definitely not like the others, this ability to abandon oneself with the risk of getting lost in it. The Almond Trees puts words, images and scenes on what so many caricature or look at with a certain contempt, propagating this idea of ​​actors who would always do too much, in permanent representation. Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi digs under this varnish, accompanied by the camera, by turns enveloping or intrusive, by Julien Poupard (the chief op’ of party girl and Miserables) who marvelously captures this permanent bubbling and this phenomenal band of actors that Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi has brought together here. Faces hitherto unknown (Sofiane Bennacer…), hopes that do more than confirm the hopes placed in them (Sarah Henochsberg discovered in That’s love, Suzanne Lindon in the overwhelming role of an apprentice actress who fails the school entrance exam and who comes to work there as a waitress to get closer to the heart of the reactor but also almost beg the right to play there…), successful incarnations of the tutelary figures of the place (Louis Garrel in Patrice Chéreau, Micha Lescot in Pierre Roman, his alter ego) and then a diamond in the rough. The one who plays the revisited version of the Valeria of the 80s. The striking Nadia Tereszkiewicz who, after tom and Baby sitter, continues its irresistible rise in the small world of French cinema. The palette of feelings on which she evolves with incredible naturalness seems to have no limit. Neither does his ability to play with others. His bursts of laughter are as stunning as his crying spells or these outbursts of rage. Chéreau would have loved it!

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