This French film follows the story of an aging father named Victor (Daniel Auteuil); a man with no job or prospects and his marriage seemingly hanging on by a thin thread – something remarkable happens – he’s given the opportunity to pick any time in history to relive, and in that chosen time actors, sets, and a story will be provided for him.
This is a story about the past, about the future, about the good times — this hefty romantic comedy tries its hand at getting to the core of how we romanticize the past and how we look at the future with pessimism. We get a sense that this is a story about growth for not just the lead but for every character in the story – with the performances for these lively characters helping to make this French story consistently entertaining throughout. Though this foreign film may provide a language barrier for most, the lessons and emotive high points are entirely universal.
On the technical front, La Belle Époque is as simple as its high-concept narrative as it is cleverly crafted to allow the audience to understand the complications between reality and fantasy. Static shots are used to capture Victor’s delight as he journeys into his past as the camera follows him using eye-level camera angles while also using more striking shots such as a birds-eye view shot. The lighting is utilised appropriately as the film is flushed with dark shades of grays, whites and blacks but incorporates a warmer colour palette as the high-concept is introduced.
One of the highlights of the film is the production design which is magnificently crafted as this film features sets from a variety of different era’s. The set design is extremely important to visually capture and succeed with this concept in a way that makes it easy to identify each location the characters are in. La Belle Époque manages to make it effortless to distinguish between the modern era or the recaptured ’70s time travellers set through the detailed set design or with the carefully selected costuming. The film is set to 70’s pop hits from the likes of The Monkees and Dionne Warwick which helps the film establish its tone but unfortunately doesn’t incorporate an impactful score to convey the emotions.
For those looking for film that stays light-hearted throughout its life-span and provides meaningful messages, look no further. La Belle Époque takes audiences on a journey through time – exploring how the past can teach us lessons about the present.