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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
God Is Great, I'm Not
Directed by Pascale Bailly
Koch Entertainment 11/02 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Michele (Audry Tautou) is a 20-year-old fashion model who has spiritual interests but doesn't quite know what to do with them. Following an abortion and a breakup with her boyfriend, she abandons the Catholicism of her youth and turns to Buddhism. She reads books and tries meditation but keeps falling asleep during practice. "All this positive energy is exhausting," she observes.
Then she starts a romance with Francois (Edouard Baer), a 32-year-old veterinarian who is a non-practicing Jew. Michele embarks on a new spiritual quest, trying to learn as much as she can about Judaism. She is tutored by Joseph (Jean Reichman), a friend who speaks English. Francois is quite puzzled by this turn of events and is especially peeved when Michele hangs a mezuzah on the door of his apartment. "You want the entire building to know I'm Jewish?" he exclaims. Although Francois is madly in love with her, he is not happy over Michele's spiritual proclivities. On another occasion, he lectures her on the correct use of the term "Shoah" instead of the popular word "Holocaust."
But the real clash comes when Francois's parents arrive for a visit from Israel. Michele, who hasn't been invited to meet them, crashes the party, causing him a great deal of embarrassment. Imagine his shock when in front of his parents she uses a menorah to light her cigarette. Despite the fact that Michele and Francois are attending classes at the synagogue run by the rabbi, she hasn't really assimilated all the information. Trying desperately to get it right, she becomes quite strict in observing Shabbat even though she wonders why so many of the restrictions deal with ancient activities such as not shearing sheep. He learns the prayers, follows the religious feasts, and wears the Kippa to please her. But no matter how intimate they are on the sexual plane, their religious differences eventually put a wall between them. Added to the fact that when Michele has a pregnancy false alarm, Francois tells her in no uncertain terms that he is not ready to start a family. Michele is deeply hurt.
First-time feature film director Pascale Bailly takes a light-hearted approach to the difficulties in this love affair. She adds fuel to the fires of discontent by opening up the relationship between the fashion model and her unhappy mother (Catherine Jacob). Michele's diary entries also reveal the insecurities of this seemly happy young woman who isn't satisfied with the perks that come with her career. Will she be able to find the peace of mind that she so desperately wants? The seeker's path never ends with the closing of one chapter. There is always a new journey on the horizon.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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