Thirty-five years after playing a bourgeois woman and her thug lover in Maurice Pialat’s classic Loulou, Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu are finally reunited in Guillaume Nicloux’s deeply original Valley of Love. Here, France’s two leading stars play Gérard and Isabelle, a divorced couple of famous actors who meet in Death Valley after receiving a letter from their dead son, a recent suicide, promising that he will reappear in the desert at a specific time and place. While Nicloux, one of French cinema’s masters of the unexpected (his previous feature was The Kidnapping of Michel Houllebecq, with the controversial writer playing himself in a fictional story), fills Valley of Love with discordant visions worthy of David Lynch and wry observations of the inevitable culture clash between French and American guests in a odforsaken motel, the heart of the movie is simply the aura of its two stars and the collective memory they embody. Watching Isabelle Huppert’s marvelously nuanced expressions and Gérard Depardieu’s monumental presence—it is fair to say that he upstages the desert—the viewer is confronted with a wordless meditation on the passage of time and the extent to which moviegoers’ lives are enmeshed with those of the people on the screen. Drawing not only on its own gripping story but on the history in its actors’ faces, Valley of Love reaches an emotional fever pitch in the heart of the desert.
David H. Pickering (translation)
Belgium, France, 2015
$250 for Blu-ray
$350 for DCP