A French Film Starring Two French Giants: ‘Seven Days… Seven Nights’ Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar

The refusal to use a conjunction. The ellipsis instead of a comma. If you’re wondering what kind of movie to expect with Peter BrooksSeven Days… Seven Nights, the title basically tells you everything you need to know.

To be fair, the French title and the title of the source material by Marguerite Duras is Moderato Cantabile. That means, as Pierre’s piano teacher, Miss. Giraud (Colette Régis), translates, “moderately and singing,” but it’s hard to concentrate on playing a sonatina when you’ve just heard a woman scream outside.

Miss. Giraud wants Pierre to keep playing, but to stand by her guns she can’t look out the window herself and it’s funny (if darkly funny, not haha funny) to watch her determination come up against her own curiousity. It’s even worse for Pierre’s mother (Jeanne Moreau), who tries to back Miss. Giraud’s play but is just as antsy as her son to find out what’s going on. There’s not much dialogue in this scene but that’s probably why it’s one of the best in the movie – a power struggle where the adults made their stand and are stuck trying to enforce it.

It’s hard to say whether it’s the translation that’s off or if the dialogue is supposed to be this obtuse, but once you start questioning the subtitles it’s pretty much downhill from there. Seven Days… Seven Nights is one of those films that’s emblematic of the generalizations people make about French movies. Everything is intense but meaningful (though of what is anyone’s guess). Everyone’s suffering from ennui. Nobody’s behavior makes complete sense.

There is something compelling about the film, which deals with the kind of car crash mentality people have with tragedies – not being able to look away or becoming obsessed with learning all the details. In this case the scream turns out to have been made by a woman who was killed in a café nearby. Moreau’s Anne develops a fascination with her death and keeps returning to the café where she was murdered. It’s there that she meets Mr. Chauvin (Jean-Paul Belmondo, who recently passed away) and falls in love, but is it really love or is Anne determined to recreate what she perceives as having been this Romeo and Juliet-type romance between the woman who was murdered and her killer (Valeric Dobuzinsky)?

It’s weird with Seven Days… Seven Nights, because as much as I know I was frustrated while watching, it’s a movie that improves upon reflection, which might just be a trick of the mind or speak to how great the movie could’ve been, starring as it does two French giants. Moreau definitely fares better than Belmondo, in terms of a rich interior life, and according to filmmaker and historian, Daniel Kremer, in his commentary track (which also goes over the casting and the role producer, Raoul Lévy played in getting the movie made), Belmondo was not a fan of the movie. The cinematography by Armand Thirard is crisp and clean and what’s great about the exterior shots of Anne’s house is after Chauvin confirms once that he was standing there, every exterior shot could be from his point of view. When Anne says she’s being watched she’s not joking, either, which makes for a real claustrophobia.

Seven Days… Seven Nights is available on Blu-Ray and DVD starting September 28th.

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