Antoinette in the Cévennes
Donkey megastars are not rare in movies. Don’t act surprised. Francis, a living talking mule (I know, that’s not a donkey), along with his human co-star Donald O’Connor, was the star of a series of movies in the 1950s. Animated donkeys don’t get more outrageous and fun loving than the simply named Donkey in the Shrek movies. You can add a donkey named Patrick (pronounced Paht-reek and spoken quickly as one word), to that pack. Patrick shares centre stage with his human co-star, Antoinette (Laure Calamy). Antoinette is delightful with a bubbly personality. Patrick is an animal star with an alluring personality (for a donkey).
Antoinette’s trek with Patrick on a walk through the mountainous Cévennes district of southern France does not happen through choice but rather through an unfortunate spur-of-the-moment decision when Antoinette’s lover Vladimir (Benjamin Lavernhe) chooses to go trekking with his wife and daughter rather than spend the school holidays with Antoinette. Antoinette books a place on the trek alongside Vladimir, his wife Eléonore and their daughter Alice.
What could possibly go wrong?
Primary school teacher Antoinette is besotted with her paramour Vladimir, the father of one of her students. Paramour is a polite word to describe Vladimir. Despite his average man looks and unassuming manner, he is manipulative and selfish. He puts Antoinette in a holding pattern as if she’s a doll you can put on a shelf until you’re ready to play again.
The matter arises of why a single woman is involved with a married man and a married man is unfaithful to his wife and involved in a perilous relationship with his daughter’s teacher.
The moral ambiguities and conundrums are integrated into the story when Antoinette meets her fellow hikers at lunch at the starting location of the trek.
Antoinette encounters all attitudes, from the couples who nod in agreement with Antoinette’s affair, to couples who are perplexed by Antoinette and Vladimir’s dalliance, to an older woman who shows contempt for Antoinette’s behaviour.
The range of moral judgements most likely reflects the reactions the relationship will get from the various members of the audience watching the film and the questions surrounding Antoinette’s independence and self-esteem.
Antoinette’s mountainous trek becomes a journey of personal discovery. If that all sounds too heavy, you can relax. On the whole, Antoinette in the Cévennes is a light-hearted and genuinely exhilarating and humorous acquaintanceship with, ultimately, a strong, determined woman and the wonderfully charming (for a donkey) Patrick. Patrick is mostly the strong, silent type, with only the occasional outburst of donkey song.
Antoinette, a young professional city dweller, learns that trekking through the Cévennes in wedge shoes, designer denim shorts and inadequate camping supplies while towing a donkey is not the most appropriate preparation for outdoor activities.
WATCH Official Trailer : Antoinette in the Cévennes
With all that moral baggage on board, as well as her supplies for the mountainous trek straddled across Patrick’s back, Antoinette has to contend with Patrick’s personality.
It goes beyond Patrick being as stubborn as his equine cousin, the mule.
The movie becomes a literal tug-of-war between Antoinette’s obstinate attempts to coax Patrick to do her bidding and Patrick’s determination to have Antoinette work to his schedule and his pace.
Patrick becomes Antoinette’s sounding board as she unloads her emotional baggage as they walk through the mountains. She learns a lot about herself and learns that the secret to Patrick’s co-operation becomes evident if she pays attention to Patrick’s responses to her entreaties to walk.
In turn, Patrick allows Antoinette to develop a sense of her strength and control over her actions and direction in life.
Along they way, Antoinette and Patrick provide many moments of mirth, humour and laughs. That's before we get to the charm factor that flows throughout the movie. Antoinette encounters other travellers and learns that not all males are as self-entered as Vladimir. By the end of the trek, she uncovers her inner strength and becomes self-reliant.
Antoinette in the Cévennes is a feel-good movie. It will certainly make you smile, laugh at comic moments and give you a warm glow. It also definitely has an undercurrent of one woman assuming control of her life and her relationships. She uncovers her sense of positiveness and realises she controls her life and feelings and that her emotions are not dependent on anyone else, especially a demanding, insecure man who wants to burn his relationship candle at both ends.
The strongest people in Antoinette in the Cévennes are Antoinette and Eléonore. And, of course, there’s superstar donkey, Patrick. You just want Patrick to hog (I know, that's not a donkey) the screen for as long as possible. Patrick is magnificent. He has as much, if not more, personality as the human actors. You never know, he may have you braying with laughter.
Antoinette in the Cervannes (French with English subtitles)
Currently in cinema release after a successful season at the Alliance Francais French Film Festival (Australia). Check your local arthouse/independent cinemas in your region for session times.
FILM EXTRAS: DONKEY FILMS
Before anyone starts braying about the difference between a donkey and a mule, don’t bother. I know there’s a difference. But there is a genetic link, so let’s leave it at that. If you persist in your objection to herding donkeys with mules, then you’re just being as a stubborn as a you-know-what. If you persist about mules and donkeys, you’re going to get my goat (and, yes, there is a link between goats and racehorses, which belong to the same family as mules and donkeys).
My goodness, you’re a tough audience.
What's the difference between a horse, a donkey and a mule?
(I know, how good is that for a film title)
Manolo leads a simple life in Southern Spain. He has two loves: his animals, in particular his donkey Gorrión (“Sparrow”), and wandering through nature. Against the advice of his doctor, he decides to plan one last walk in the US, the brutal 2200 mile Trail of Tears.
But not without his donkey.
WATCH Official trailer: Donkeyote
WATCH: To Own or Rent Donkeyote visit https://donkeyotefilm.com/vod
TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA
When gunslinger Hogan (Clint Eastwood) discovers a group of men attempting to rape a young nun, Sara (Shirley MacLaine), he shoots them dead and rescues the woman. The two escape to a nearby camp of Mexican revolutionaries, who have hired Hogan to help fight the invading French army. En route, Sara turns out to be surprisingly crude for a nun, drinking, smoking and using curse words. When she also proves to be handy with a gun, Hogan begins wondering if she is telling him the whole truth.
WATCH Official Trailer: Two Mules for Sister Sara
You’ve got to watch the trailer for the voiceover alone. They don’t write them like that anymore. Not sure whether I’m thinking, “Thank goodness they don’t” or “I find the overloaded and overblown prose of the voiceover somehow enticing”.
Rent Two Mules for Sister Sara ($3.99). No, I still don’t get any kickbacks or commissions. Watch or don’t watch—your decision, your $3.99.
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