La Belle et la Belle, by director Sophie Fillières, who died in 2023, opens with a temporal quack worthy of a Francis Ford Coppola period Peggy Sue Got Married (1986). During an evening in Paris, Margaux (Agathe Bonitzer) meets Margaux (Sandrine Kiberlain). A few words make them understand that they are one and the same person at two different ages.
One launches into life a little clumsily, while the other knows very well what it has in store for her. Memories and aspirations, friends of yesterday and acquaintances of today are reflected from a distance in the crossed gazes of both. The next day, they find themselves on the same train heading to Lyon.
The idea, quite brilliant, immediately breaks the barrier of realism specific to French cinema, and takes sentimental comedy out of its orbit. After the initial surprise, Sophie Fillières decides (perhaps even crazier) not to exploit her initial argument. Without exploring all the temporal paradoxes that seemed to result from it, she continues on her sentimental momentum, as if nothing had happened. Arriving in Lyon, the two Margaux fall in love with the same man at the same time, in the person of Marc (Melvil Poupaud). Except that the little one is experiencing what the older one has already experienced.
The romantic relationship is then surrounded on both sides of its trajectory by the dual consciousness of the Margaux. Its beginning thus communicates with its end. In doing so, Sophie Fillières thwarts the risk of the concept film, prisoner of a flashy pitch, to plunge into the heart of what the feeling of love is both always new and always already played out.
Still, the film has the air of a broken promise. But his project and his real interest perhaps lie elsewhere. The stuttering of time postulated here corresponds in minor mode to the stuttering of language, those strange expressions whose secret derailments mark our existence.
Sophie Fillières thus pays mischievous and delectable attention to everything funny, comical and incongruous in our words. From the friend who punctuates all her sentences with “like” or “too not”, to the extravagant verbal slippages of the great Margaux, language is the first vector of incongruity, the trap in which our feelings, our emotions and perhaps even our entire existence is caught and stumbles. It is he, in any case, who gives things an air of déjà vu, reminding us that our experiences have already been lived. Or at least “named”.