Life Is a Long Quiet River: Special Ed. [Blu-ray]
(Benoît Magimel, Valérie Lalande, Tara Röme, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1988) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: The radiantly bourgeois Le Quesnoys with their immaculate children and perfect manners and the grubby, disreputable Groseilles are thrown together in absurd chaos by an act of revenge as they discover that twelve years prior their babies were switched at birth.
Blu-ray Verdict: A witty send up of class relations and family ties, 'Life Is a Long Quiet River' was celebrated with a host of trophies at France's César Awards ceremony winning for best screenplay, best debut work and acting prizes for Héléne Vincent and Catherine Jacob.
For me, personally, this movie was actually more about how life is not a long, tranquil river. Anyone can disturb the peace by a simple action like the nurse did, first by switching the children and later writing to the parents about it.
To her it was just an act of revenge towards the doctor, but the consequences were not limited to the doctor. Etienne Chatillier pokes fun at many different issues throughout the movie which is meant to be a comedy.
Americans, without knowledge of all these issues, as well as the play on words and other humor aimed at the French, will not enjoy it to its full extent. Nevertheless, anyone will laugh at the doctor swearing scene. (La salope)
Most of the characters seem to be very stereotypical - the Arab shopkeeper, the "poor family", the policemen, the doctor, the "rich family".
In fact, the only truly realistic character is Mômo. His many sided character sometimes puzzles the audience. His romantic love for his biological mother, his stealing to help his other family, his spite in revealing the truth to Bernadette, his friendships with the children in both families and his childishness, create a curious mélange.
In addition to these basic characters, there is also the priest. He is used to criticize the church and religion in general.
Parenting and upbringing of children is an important theme in this film. The children in the rich family are very polite, intelligent, religious, etc. while the children in the poor family act stupid, are rude and naughty.
I noticed that this difference in upbringing was not really substantial because when Mômo became part of the family and introduced "naughty" ideas, the rich children just followed along with enthusiasm.
The way they were convinced so easily, shows that their parents hadn't ingrained their education into the children. The only reason why they hadn't done the "naughty" things before was that they hadn't heard of such ideas. Once Mômo supplied them, they dropped all pretense of a higher education, morals, etc. and followed along.
The rich parents' method of dealing with the problems was heavily criticized in the movie. When Bernadette purposefully spilled the soup at the table, they just sat there in silence.
They continue using this approach and we see how the children only get wilder and wilder, unrestrained, and with no solution in sight.
I felt that the ending scene fitted in with the movie really well. It summed up the idea that so many problems arise when one person simply pursues their goal, not stopping at anything.
The satisfied nurse sitting, victorious, with the doctor completely broken. And this right after seeing how the rich family completely fell apart. A cruel type of humor, sure, but well placed here.
In closing, 'Life Is a Long Quiet River' ('La vie est un long fleuve tranquille') is not an American comedy. There are few slapstick moments. Nevertheless, I think many Americans would enjoy this movie. I would definitely appreciate watching it once more myself. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition digital transfer
High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentation
Original Mono audio
Newly translated optional English subtitles
Archival interviews with director Étienne Chatiliez, actor André Wilms, co-writer/co-producer Florence Quentin and producer Charles Gassot
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Jonathan Romney
'Life Is a Long Quiet River' Official HD Trailer