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2 Autumns, 3 Winters DVD Review

2 Autumns, 3 Winters DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com 2 Autumns, 3 Winters (2 Automnes 3 Hivers)

US Theatrical Release: June 6, 2014 (France: December 25, 2013) / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Writer/Director: Sébastien Betbeder

Cast: Vincent Macaigne (Arman), Maud Wyler (Amélie), Bastien Bouillon (Benjamin), Audrey Bastien (Katia), Thomas Blanchard (Jan), Pauline Etienne (Lucie), Jean-Quentin Châtelain (Arman's Father), Olivier Chantreau (Guillaume), Eriko Takeda (Hazuki), Loïc Hourcastagnon (The Small Ninja), Emmanuel Demonsant (The Big Ninja), Philippe Crespeau (Benjamin's Father), Marie-Claude Roulin (Benjamin's Mother)

1.37.1 Pillarboxed Fullscreen / Dolby Stereo 2.0 (French)
Subtitles: English / Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: June 17, 2014 (Film-of-the-Month Club Release: January 1, 2014)
Suggested Retail Price: $24.95 / Clear Keepcase / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

Buy 2 Autumns, 3 Winters from Amazon.com: DVDInstant Video

The French film 2 Autumns, 3 Winters assumes the form of a documentary to tell the story of one friendship and two romantic relationships. Our lead is Arman (Vincent Macaigne),
a 33-year-old single Parisian who moves from one meaningless job to another, never using the art school education he got. One Saturday in the fall of 2009, while vowing to jog two days a week, Arman literally runs into Amélie (Maud Wyler), a 27½-year-old student. Their meet cute in the park is brief but memorable and Arman takes pains to recreate it, running for hours in the hopes of seeing her again.

Their paths do not cross until later, when he hears her screams as she is mugged and on the verge of being raped by two masked hoods. Arman saves Amélie, but in the process gets stabbed. He is close enough to death to see a white place and the father who passed away when he was twenty. Arman pulls through, but shortly after that, his longtime best friend Benjamin (Bastien Bouillon) suffers a stroke, falling in hedges conscious but unable to move or talk.

Benjamin is hospitalized, but makes a relatively quick recovery and starts dating his speech therapist Katia (Audrey Bastien). As their relationship blossoms, Arman and Amélie's hits a snag over an unplanned pregnancy that is terminated. In the film's conclusion, the four wind up together at Christmas 2012.

Arman (Vincent Macaigne) and Amélie (Maud Wyler) meet cute in the park after running into each other. In front of a scenic fall backdrop, Benjamin (Bastien Bouillon) recalls his startling stroke experience in a reality TV-style direct camera address.

Written and directed by Sébastien Betbeder, 2 Autumns has characters address the camera directly like the subjects of a reality television show. The experiences of these two, three, and eventually four young people carry no more significance than your typical reality TV star. Their shared existence in Paris isn't much different from single people of the same age in the US. In fact, their movie and TV tastes are similar; Arman surprisingly raves over Judd Apatow's Funny People, while Amélie downloads episodes of "Mad Men", "Breaking Bad", and "The Walking Dead." (Girl needs to get AMC!)

Besides resembling reality TV, this also has a student film feel. Sloppy, sincere, and self-reflexive, it's comparable to something like Garden State,
especially if you don't consider Zach Braff's directing debut a great work of art.

Early on, Betbeder's writing and direction recalls early Woody Allen, as if Annie Hall was made now by Allen in his late thirties. Such a comparison seems ill-deserved near the end as it becomes clear that 2 Autumns isn't going anywhere. It's a slice of life without aim. The film is divided into forty chapters, counting up to 20 and then back down to 1. Each runs around 2 minutes and accomplishes little. That is ultimately the film's biggest problem. It doesn't add up to anything. There are some diverting moments and nice ones, but neither seem to bring us closer to the characters or make us care more about their lives. Benjamin's plight initially feels like padding...until we encounter material that cannot be classified as anything else, like a chapter spent with Katia's suicidal rabbit-hunting cousin.

Surprisingly, Arman was a huge fan of Judd Apatow's "Funny People", which he passionately describes with help from this animated Adam Sandler graphic. Amélie (Maud Wyler) visits a recovering Arman (Vincent Macaigne) in the hospital.

In the end, you don't love these characters. You don't hate these characters. You nothing these characters, which is just about the worst reaction to have after spending 90 intimate minutes with them including their private confessionals.

January 2014's selection for Film Movement's Film of the Month Club, 2 Autumns hit general retail this week, a mere eleven days after opening exclusively at the Alice Tully Hall in New York's Lincoln Center.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Oddly, despite opening in France just last Christmas Day, 2 Autumns, 3 Winters appears in the old standard 1.37:1 Academy Ratio. Presumably that is a choice designed to emphasize the film's home movies angle, but I'm pretty sure 16:9 has been the norm in France for as long as it has been here. As the in-case notes explain, 2 Autumns was shot with a mix of 16mm and HD digital video. The former displays the grain you would expect, while the latter looks a little more polished (but still very much subject to standard definition's limitations).

The French soundtrack is offered only in plain Dolby 2.0 stereo and it warrants little notice. On the plus side, the player-generated white English subtitles are for the most part grammatically sound and always easily read.

Traveling businessman Jean-Paul Clement (Guillaume Canet) makes a call for companionship in the bonus 2008 short "Voyage d'affaires." Writer-director Sébastien Betbeder is one of two briefly biographized.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The disc's obligatory bonus short is Voyage d'affaires (The Business Trip) (10:58), a 2008 production that is unrelated to the main film apart from being in French.

In it, a freshly-dumped businessman (Guillaume Canet) checks into the Dolphine Hotel for a week and finds a dirty Polaroid under his bed. It leads to a comic ending you might very well not see coming. Featuring actress Mélanie Laurent, subsequently known for her turns in Inglourious Basterds, Beginners, and Now You See Me, this BAFTA-nominated short from the UK's Sean Ellis is treated to a most unsightly presentation here, with tiny, fluctuating yellow burned-in subtitles barely remaining in frame.

2 Autumns-specific extras are limited to one-page biographies of writer-director Sébastien Betbeder and actor Vincent Macaigne plus Film Movement's trailer for the film (1:47).

A trailers section provides access to the disc-opening previews for Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, Tanta Agua, and Watchtower, plus additional ones for The Grocer's Son, Queen of Hearts, and Karen Cries on the Bus.

There's also a page on Film Movement's Film-of-the-Month club which lets you rewatch the disc-opening promo for it.

Finally, the clear keepcase shows off the reverse cover art which serves up a couple of paragraphs explaining the club's selection of 2 Autumns and a few paragraphs from Betbeder discussing the film and its origins.

As always, Film Movement's animated menu places uniform listings over a scored montage of clips.

On a shared winter vacation, the four lead characters enjoy fondue.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

France's 2 Autumns, 3 Winters differs from American romantic comedies in presentation and tone, but fails to sustain your interest beyond a few good moments. The aimless nature of the narrative renders it unfulfilling enough to question whether time is well-spent watching this.

Film Movement's DVD is basic but satisfactory and may be most notable for its inclusion of the bonus short Voyage d'affaires, a long but funny joke.

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Related Reviews:
French Language Films: The Diving Bell and the ButterflyThe PastRust & Bone
Film Movement: The Jewish CardinalTanta AguaGaribaldi's LoversKey of LifeWatchtower
Four Weddings and a FuneralBefore MidnightAnnie HallI Give It a YearAbout Last Night
Mélanie Laurent: Now You See MeWings of Life

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Reviewed June 18, 2014.



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