special-event-life-is-a-long-quiet-river-la-vie-est-un-long-fleuve-tranquille-mar-26thWe celebrate the end of our 2014 – 2015 season with this sharp French comedy of swapped newborns. The two families are rather different. The Quesnoys are smug and affluent; the Groseilles are definitely from the other side of the tracks. Money changes hands and born-to-be-posh boy is restored to his rightful family, while Bernadette, low-class by nature, but elevated by nurture, gets interested in her birth family. Adding sex, drugs, alcohol, racism and greed to the mix ” … director Chatiliez… gets his revenge on class, commercialism and the more crass aspects of our long placid river, with hilarious and savage results” – John Minion, empireonline. (Cert 15)
Dir: Etienne Chatiliez 90 mins France 1988
Doors open at 7.00 p.m. for this joint event with Abingdon and District Twin Towns Society which is included in the main programme and your subscription – (food & drink extra). Film starts at 7.45 p.m.

Programme Notes

Life is a Long Quiet River
France 1988 90mins Cert 15

Joint presentation with Abingdon and District Twin Towns Society

Life is a Long Quiet River (director Etienne Chatiliez’s debut feature) was the most popular film in France in 1988 and won three César Awards in 1989, viz. Best Supporting Actress (Helene Vincent), Most Promising Young Actress (Catherine Jacob) and Best Screenplay (Etienne Chatiliez and Florence Quentin).

Contrary to the implication in its title, this comedy of social class/mores posits that life is anything but quiet. The premise of the film, not new by any means, is founded on two babies swapped at birth by a vengeful nurse to spite her gynaecologist lover and further developed on what happens when, twelve years later, she reveals the truth to the two families in which the children have been brought up in contrasting lifestyles – one affluent, one poor.

A wicked little satire, with an utterly uncompromising view of the world (but with a serious subtext reflecting French society of the time), the film points up the differences and, below the surface, the similarities between the bourgeois Le Quesnoy family and the working class Groseilles. Excellent performances all round, especially from Helene Vincent and Andre Wilms as the wealthy Le Quesnoys, keep the characters from slipping into caricature.

Based on the evidence of tonight’s film, Chatiliez, whose sardonic directing style was honed in advertising and in directing reportedly outrageous TV commercials, may here be seen to possess a uniquely jaundiced view of the world (which may partly account for the film drifting out of sight and mind of cinema audiences) but nevertheless went on to make another eight features including, in 1990, the acclaimed Tatie Danielle and in 2001 the underrated black comedy Tanguy.
Acknowledgements: Robert Horton, What a Feeling! (Review)
Angeliki Coconi, Unsung Films

“The set-up allows writer-director Chatiliez to score some points in the nature vs nurture debate but the film is not a comedy of manners. Running dark and deep, it displays considerable dubiousness about human nature.” Robert Horton (ibid)

Momo Groseille – Benoît Magimel
Bernadette Le Quesnoy – Valérie Lalande
Million Groseille – Tara Römer
Madame Le Quesnoy – Hélène Vincent
Toc-Toc Groseille – Jérôme Floch
Marie-Thérèse – Catherine Jacob

Director – Etienne Chatiliez
Producer – Charles Gassot
Screenplay – Etienne Chatiliez, Florence Quentin
Cinematography – Pascal Lebègue
Music – Gérard Kawczynski


“Excellent evening – film and social event”

“Very good – and many thanks for choosing this film”

“Highly enjoyable”

“Amusant et charmant – très agréable!”

“Très leger!”

“Fascinating and entertaining”

“The film had many levels of meaning I enjoyed the stereotypical characters.”

“OK end-of-term film”

“Très agréable mais un peu difficile a comprendre le [illegible] d’être.”

“Whilst the fashions and the music hadn’t aged well, the film was a charming crowd-pleaser with the status quo unravelling at a pleasurable pace. It also helped that the central performances were entertaining and dynamic throughout.”

“Funny but he [Chatiliez] didn’t know how to end it!”

“Not quite as funny as I expected but OK nevertheless!”

“Difficult to discern who was who”

“The film was OTT and too clichéd.”


A:11, B:20, C:9, D:2, E:0 to give 74%