July 29, 2021

Laure Calamy as a clown with irresistible charm


It was the great breath of fresh air for the start of the school year, the surprise of a popular and offbeat comedy, with disturbing humor, the twists of which take the viewer far beyond the announced vaudeville. Antoinette in the Cévennes, by Caroline Vignal, broadcast on Canal + in “first exclusivity”, tells us the comic and pathetic epic of a woman who sets off in search of her lover in the Cévennes, walking the path of hikers alongside a donkey – named Patrick – who does what he wants.

The director, who signs her second feature film there, could not dream of a better actress than Laure Calamy to play a clown with irresistible charm – the role earned her the César for best actress in 2021, in March. Antoinette, therefore, a school mistress full of fantasy, is ready to do anything to declare her love for Vladimir, played by Benjamin Lavernhe, of the Comédie-Française.

Read also: Benjamin Lavernhe, “I became an actor as if I had to obey my destiny”

The film opens with the end of year party, for which the teacher, in a silver lamé dress, sings a song by Véronique Sanson with her students, In love (1972) – “One night I fall asleep with him / But I know that we are forbidden …” -, her eyes fixed on those of her lover, who no longer knows where to go. The other parents are stunned, torn between amused smiles and uneasiness.

Then it was a cold shower for Antoinette, who was watching for the start of the summer holidays to spend time with her man: at the last moment, he told her that he had to go to the Cévennes with his wife (Olivia Côte) and child. . Listening only to her heart, Antoinette takes a train ticket. And set off in the footsteps of Vladimir, headlong, on the GR70 which links Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille (Haute-Loire) to Saint-Jean-du-Gard, as did in 1878 the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson , he also at that time in full heartache – he drew from it the book which has become cult Travel with a donkey in the Cévennes, published in 1879.

An explosive and hilarious “couple”

With her donkey Patrick, Antoinette will form an explosive and hilarious “couple”. The arrival at the gîte in the Cévennes sets the tone. The funny and sexy Parisienne becomes the attraction: some look at her with severity or commiseration, others envy her and admire her courage. Because she is the only one to venture there on the back of a donkey, and besides, she does not know what awaits her.

Read the portrait: Laure Calamy, “Me, what I like is the climbs”

The fate of the lovers is sealed in the middle of the film. Because of course they end up crossing each other. The scenario pulls on the comic springs to the breaking point, sending her heroine in a perilous zone before recovering her on the more famous ground of burlesque, where Laure Calamy no longer has to prove that she excels. At 45, the actress finally holds her first major role in the cinema, the subtlety of the story allowing her to work the tragicomic register in the manner of Michel Serrault in The Cage aux folles (1978) – an actor Laure Calamy likes to quote.

Antoinette in the Cévennes, film by Caroline Vignal (Fr., 2020, 95 min). Aired throughout June on Canal +, available on demand on MyCanal until July 18.