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'God Is Great, I'm Not'

Film Clips: A roundup of new releases

Friday, March 14, 2003

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Film titles always lose something in the translation, but this one loses everything. Much better than the ponderous English name with which it's saddled would have been a simple literal rendering of the French ("Dieux est grande, je suis toute petite"): "God is large, I'm quite small."

'God Is Great, I'm Not'

RATING: R in nature for adult sexual and religious themes

STARRING: Audrey Tautou, Edouard Baer

DIRECTOR: Pascale Bailly

WEB SITE: www.marsfilms.com


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A romantic comedy of the Gallic screwball kind, charmingly directed by Pascale Bailly, it comes fast on the heels of Audrey Tautou's smash success in "Amelie" last year.

She's a soulful, eccentric gamine again, not unlike the Audrey named Hepburn of 50 years ago. This time around, she is Michele: "I'm 20 and I've ruined my life," she confides to her diary -- and us -- at the outset, devastated by an abortion and break-up with her boyfriend, adrift and in search of divine assistance. Catholicism doesn't cut it. Buddha proves too soporific during the mantras. Her seduction by Francois (Edouard Baer), a Jewish veterinarian, leads first to a suicide attempt but then -- bingo! -- to Judaism.

Michele desperately wants to convert to -- what Francois is equally desperate to hide -- his religion. He finds her extreme philo-Semitism unbearable. She's reading "Judaism for Beginners" and he's reading Veterinarian's Weekly in bed. There's "Jaws" on Channel 6, he tells her -- but there's Jews on Channel Michele.

Her spiritual journey is a parodic one that he only gradually and grudgingly shares; what they have in common, much more than religion, is a burdensome set of parents. Michele's worst nightmare is the fear of becoming like her crazy, heavy-drinking mother (Catherine Jacob), who makes Michele use the back door when visiting, so as not to annoy her hideous stepfather.

Everyone is violently volatile. When not exploding emotionally, Michele is a fashion model clad in see-through bubblewrap for photo shoots. There are serious moments -- Francois' father is dying -- but sitcom, Lucy-Desi situations predominate.

Director Bailly is going for something between tears and laughter. It's a little too madcap -- a bit too-too Tautou. But there is enough joie de vivre in this film to make you enjoy it -- and to understand why the French are against a joyless war in Iraq.

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