PAULINE AND PAULETTE (2001) film group responses

The Brent U3A film group looking at the representation of old women met again for the first session of the academic year. I was sad to note that there were no members of the original group alive anymore. But I was glad that the new  ‘younger’ members who joined last year came again this year and that I could show again what I consider classics in the field of old women representation.

We viewed Pauline and Paulette (2001).   I posted about this film in 2009 after a screening at the Lexi cinema. The general discussion was as lively as then. The many strands, and issues explored are impossible to summarise with objectivity. It seemed to me however that on the whole there was emphasis on the caring role and problems rather than disability or ageing. But as usual I asked the women to write down their immediate gut reactions.

  • A very powerful film to view, the poignancy of Pauline’ life but at the same time one can sympathise on difficulties of the sisters. Brings home to you the almost insurmountable problems in a family which one  has been lucky enough not to to face oneself- relief. There are moments of great tenderness and love , Pauline knows what is important in life. The attitude of the butcher’s wife is cruel and patronising. I am not sure if the laughter is not altogether sympathetic. Challenges one’s own response to Pauline, would one be compassionate and loving?
  • Quietly moving- dreamlike quality ( their individual dreams) through the mise-en-scene: Colours, pinks/reds v. black, blue and grey of Brussels , shop, operetta and music – romance/waltz – Pauline’s joy in flowers. Paulette’s dream operetta won’t /cannot return Pauline’s love, then misses it. Cecil’e dream also conflicted, opted out but guilty and capable of tenderness. Excellent acting. Idealised home (care home)
  • RED for Paulette  loves it (seen from her viewpoint. NOT UNKIND, not funny. Music reflects her emotions- pure joy. Fixated on Paulette- her red, flowers and passions turns round so Paulette needs Pauline. Loved it. The third sister not fully realised.- first was awful then loving.
  • Sad, sad, sad . Although has funny moments. I saw it entirely form Carers viewpoint – How hard it is to made decisions. Always a sense of guilt.
  • Disturbing – mixture of guilt -contradiction- on one hand caring. on the other hand talking about her as she did not exist. Did not find anything funny although some of us laughed.
  • Delightful, such pathos. Sad bu humorous . Truth of ambivalence in reaction to Pauline . Painful to watch – confronts viewer with their own discomfort. Puts you on the spot: what would you do? Laughter is often kindly, e.g. at the operetta : people delighted with her innocent spontaneity. Moral message at the end: acceptance brings happiness and contentment. Paulette becomes like Martha by the end.
  • Old age – family- loneliness- sacrifice , Martha, community, responsibility, inheritance, care.

Personally something I did not stress enough in my previous post is the extraordinary subtle facial expressions of Dora van der Groen as Pauline. The close ups of her face and slow pace induce empathy and understanding of the character. In the discussion the presence of the French speaking man was questioned. The subtext of communication and language differences in Belgium was not dwelt upon.


About rinaross

Born in 1935. MA in Film and Television Studies at the University of Westminster 1998. Studying the representation of older women in film since then.
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1 Response to PAULINE AND PAULETTE (2001) film group responses

  1. Rita Ferris-Taylor says:

    Interesting and tantalising post. Would now love to see this film

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