Chance, fate and subtitles
The movie begins on a subway train. Irene (Audrey Tautou) is going to work, as she does everyday. A woman reads Irene her horoscope. It speaks of a true love she’ll meet on the day of the full moon, which happens to be this day. Younes, (Algerian singer Faudel), a chance witness of the conversation, realizes he and Irene share the same birthday. After Irene departs the train, the woman continues to read the horoscope to Younes:
“Love is around the corner. But, careful. Be patient. Venus will slightly delay your meeting.”
From then on, Firode’s film is like a puzzle – comprised of several random characters and plots which, at first glance, seem to go nowhere, unless you are patient enough to accompany the director in his intriguing journey to discover the truth about chance and fate.
On the way you’ll meet Richard (Eric Savin), a married man who has an affair with Elsa (Lysaine Meis), Luc (Eric Feldman), a notorious liar who can’t help making up stories about himself while around women, Stephanie (Irene Ismailoff), Irene’s roommate, whose reunion with an old boyfriend turns into a disaster, a pickpocket (Said Serrari), and many others. The paths of all these characters somehow cross those of Irene and Younes. Their individual stories are full of coincidences, though not accidental, as they are a part of destiny’s plot.
“There is no such thing as chance,” says one of Firode’s protagonists.
The movie goes on to prove the bold, direct statement.
“Happenstance” is Firode’s directorial debut in feature films. Although he started his film career early, he’s worked primarily on short films. He also tried his hand as a writer with two full-length features, one of them a police comedy, and the other “Striptease,” a film made for television.
“Happenstance” is in French with English subtitles. As a typical French movie, Firode’s “Le Battement d’ailes du Papillon” (“Happenstance” is the English translation) brims with charm, wisdom and a light touch. One of its best parts is Tautou, who gained international acclaim after starring in “Amelie,” directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. As in “Amelie,” she is restrained and subtle, yet her performance is loaded with the mixture of poignancy and comic panache.
“Happenstance” intrigues from its very first frame. It’s not one of those movies you can watch at the dinner table; you have to concentrate on it. I myself watched it twice before I decided I liked it. However, it touches a subject concerning us all: no one can escape the unseen forces.
“Happenstance” was released in the US last winter. It’s rated R for nudity, sexual situations and profanity, and is available at video rental stores.