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For, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: One of my favorite French filmmakers is Bertrand Tavernier and one of his loveliest films, ‘A Sunday in the Country,’ has just earned a Blu-ray upgrade from Kino Lorber. My review was published on April 26, 1985.

The French director whose previous films “Death Watch,” “Coup de Torchon” and “A Week’s Vacation” are marvelous exercises in thought-provoking entertainment, made with restraint and taste yet filled with passion, has come up with another celebration of life in “A Sunday in the Country.”

As the title suggests, the film takes place during one Sunday at a country estate.

The central figure is an elderly artist, a painter, and the film opens as he rises from his bed early one Sunday morning, anticipating the arrival of his son’s family, including three grandchildren.

As the day progresses, a narrator fills us in on some of his thoughts and background, and from time to time the serene figure of his late wife appears, a presence that is ever with him.

The painter’s son is a rather stiff and stodgy sort, his wife likewise very prim and proper, while their children are quite different. Their two boys are hellions, constantly into mischief, and their younger daughter is a sensitive, artistic youngster, more interested in nature and drawing.


Louis Ducreux, Sabine Azema, 'A Sunday in the Country' (1985)

Later in the day, the painter’s daughter unexpectedly arrives, as well. She explains that a luncheon appointment in the city was cancelled so she thought she’d make one of her rare visits.

A gorgeous woman, dressed to the nines, and driving one of those new-fangled automobiles, she is obviously quite successful in her business and exhibits a real zest for life. It becomes apparent after a time, however, that her zeal is designed to hide an inner unhappiness that is never fully explained.

But this movie is not about details in the lives of the people it presents. It is about relationships — with the people who make up our families and with life itself.

“A Sunday in the Country” is a light little dramatic comedy, if you will, a slice of life that includes bits and pieces of character and lifestyles that will be recognizable in one form or another to just about everyone. And there is quite a bit of humor in the mini-dramas that are presented in these rather ordinary lives.

Loaded with various vignettes, but never losing sight of its narrative thrust, the film is about generalities rather than specifics in these familiar characters.


The performances are all excellent, including the children, but Sabine Azema stands out, partially because hers is the most vibrant character. But also because Azema herself is so strikingly beautiful and full of life. Her performance is wonderful, and she tells us a lot about the character by nuance, and shading.

The film also offers some wonderful visual images that compare youth with old age, and may prove to be rather encouraging for those of us who are aging reluctantly.

“A Sunday in the Country” is Tavernier doing what he does best, distinctively examining people and relationships.

I don’t want to make this picture seem like more than it is, because of its simplicity and slender framework it is not meant to come on with power. But it is most effective in achieving its humble goals.

It is in French with English subtitles and is rated G.