Rated NR

Set in contemporary Marseilles, this existential French soap opera uses intelligent, raw filmmaking and tawdry plot developments to demonstrate how power struggles among economic classes, ethnic groups and the genders result in various social ills. Saddled with a sloth of a husband, 40ish Michèle (an amazing Ariane Ascaride) packs fish by night and prostitutes herself by day to buy heroine for her teen-age junkie daughter. Michèle also is torn between her childhood boyfriend Gérard, who hides a secret or two, and balding, taxi-driving customer Paul, who is burdened with serious parental issues. Upper-class characters traffic in hypocrisy: a politician’s daughter seduces diplomats and assassins; a one-time political progressive has sold out to the corrupt municipal government; and his conflicted wife, a special-ed teacher, carries on with an ex-con rapper. Directed by Robert Guédiguian, who wrote the screenplay with longtime collaborator Jean-Louis Milesi, The Town Is Quiet should appeal to fans of both Jean-Luc Goddard and Todd Solondz. Although at times challenging to watch, it can be both insightful and moving.


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